for northern IResearcb
Founded in 1892 as the Orkney Shetland and
VOL. VIII. PART II.
Printed for the
Viking Society for Northern Research
University of London
FOR NORTHERN RESEARCH
(founded in 1892 as the Orkney, Shetland and Northern
Society, or Viking Club).
Patron : The Rt. Hon. LURD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL, G.C.M.G.
President : A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot.
Vice-Presidents : H. L. BR/EKSTAD ; Professor W. P. KER, LL.D., Past President;
Professor I. GOLLANCZ, Litt.D., Past President ; Professor ALLEN MAWEK, M. A. ;
JAMES GRAY, M.A.
Honorary Vice-Presidents : The Most Hon. THE MAKQUIS OK ZETLAND; The
Right Hon. LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL, G.C.M.G. ; Prof. SIR W.
WATSON CHEYNE, BT., C.B.. LL.D, F.R.S., Past President ; J. W. CURSITER,
F.S.A.Scot.; GILBERT GOUDIE, F.S.A.Scot., Past Hon. President; Miss
CORNELIA HORSFORD ; Captain M. A. LAING, Lord Lieutenant of Orkney and
Zetland; Prof. J. LAWRENCE, D.Lit.Lond. ; Professor SOPHUS MULI.EK ;
ROLAND ST. CLAIR ; Kev. A. SANDISON. Past President; Mrs. JESSIE M. E.
SAXBY; Pastor A. V. STORM; E. M. WARBURG; The Right Hon. T.
McKiNNON WOOD, M.P., LL.D., D.L., Past President.
Hon. Treasurer : A. SHAW MELLOR, M.A., M.B.Cantab.
Hon. Editors: Saga-Book and Year-Book Professor ALLEN MAWER, M.A.
Old-Lore Series A. W. JOHNSTON. F.S.A.Scot., and A. JOHNSTON.
Hon. Secretary : MRS. A. WINTLE JOHNSTON,
29, Ashburnham Mansions, Chelsea, S.W.
Councillors: }. STORER CLOUSTON, B.A. ; ANANDA K. COOMARASWAMY, D.Sc.
(Lond.)., F.G.S. ; E. F. ETCHELLS, M.J.I.; J. W. SUTHERLAND LEASK ;
J. M. LAUGHTON, M.B., C.M. ; W. R. L. LOWE, M.A ; F. P. MARCHANT;
W. R. PRIOR; The MARQUIS OF RUVIGNY ; DOUGLAS C. STEDMAN, B.A.;
W. BARNES STEVENI, M.J.I. ; A. W. TAYLOR, B.A.
Trustees : Prof. Sir W. WATSON CHEYNE, Bt., C.B., LL.D., F.R.S.
The Right Hon. T. McKiNNON WOOD, M.P., LL.D., D.L.
Hon. Auditors: T. DAVIES JONES; W. VYVYAN M. POPHAM.
Hon. Solicitor : T. DAVIES JONES.
Bankers : CAPITAL AND COUNTIES BANK, WESTMINSTER BRANCH.
Saga-Book (Proceedings), and Year Book issued annually.
Old-Lore Series of Miscellany and Records relating to the Old Norse Earldom
of Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and Sutherland issued quarterly.
Translation Series : Vol. I., Cormac Saga, 6s. 6d. (pub. 75. 6d.).
Vol. II., Elder Edda, 103. 6d. (pub. 155.).
Extra Series ; Vol. L, Birds of Omen in Shetland (out of print).
Vol. II., Ruins of Saga-time in Iceland, 125. 6d. bound.
Vol. III., Essays on Beowulf, IDS. 6d. (pub. 125. 6d.). .
Miscellaneous : Library Catalogue of the Society, 6d. ; Review Origines Islandicae,
by Eirikr Magmisson. MA., 2s. ; Bibliography of Caithness and Sutherland,
is. 6d. ; Rev. Alex. Pope, Reay (biography), 6d. ; Grdtta-Songr, text, translation
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Prospectus may be obtained on application to the Hon. Secretary.
The Council of the Viking Society do not hold themselves responsible for
statements or opinions appearing in Reports, Papers, Reviews, or Notes in the
SAGA-BOOK and YEAR- BOOK, the Authors alone being answerable for the same.
VOL. VIII. PART II.
REPORTS OF PROCEEDINGS AT THE
MEETINGS OF THE VIKING SOCIETY.
TWENTY FIRST SESSION, 1913.
MEETING, JANUARY 2OTH, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
A paper was read on " The Cultus of Norwegian
Saints in England and Scotland " by Dr. Edvard Bull.
The following members took part in the discussion :
Mr. W. R. L. Lowe, Mr. F. Marsh, Mr. John
Marshall, Mr. W. Barnes Steveni, Mr. F. P. Marchant
and Mr. A. W. Taylor.
The Chairman moved a hearty vote of thanks to the
author for his paper, and to Mr. A. W. Taylor, for
reading it, which was carried unanimously. Printed
on pp. 135-148-
MEETING, FEBRUARY 2isx, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
The President gave a short account of the pre-Norse
inhabitants of Orkney, Shetland and Iceland, the Norse
colonisation and the conversion of the Vikings to
Christianity. It is now asserted that there are a number
of large cave dwellings with inscriptions in the South
of Iceland, pointing to a large pre-Norse population and
not merely to the few Irish priests or Papas whom the
Norse found there in the gth century. From the old
forms of Norse place-names, odal tenure, etc., found in
132 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
the Orkneys, it is surmised that the settlement of these
islands took place as early as 700. The Picts having
been christianized as early as 565, this would give 150
years, which is ample time, to account for the numerous
Pictish ecclesiastical remains in the islands. Mr.
Johnston said it was his opinion that the Vikings
settled down peaceably and intermarried with the Picts.
This is borne out by the survival of Pictish place-
names and church dedications, and the latter indicate
that Christianity never entirely died out in the islands.
This latter theory is also supported by the ease with
which Christianity was established there in 995, in
strong contrast to the great opposition offered in pagan
Norway. Moreover, the cathedral of Orkney was built
only some 50 years after the sword-baptism of Earl
The Venerable Archdeacon Craven is of the opinion
that two Celtic waves of Christianity affected Orkney
and Shetland, the first being a mission of St. Kentigern
from the East, and the second St. Cormac's historic
mission from St. Columba in the West, represented
respectively by the dedications to St. Ninian and St.
The origin of Norse literature was also referred to.
Up to the 1 2th century the laws, sagas, and Edda lays
were oral traditions. Christianity with its written
Scriptures and missals gave the impetus to the writing
down of the laws and sagas in the I2th century. We
find Earl Ronald, a poet, and Bishop Biarni, the Skald,
busy at literary work in that century in conjunction
with Icelandic Skalds, when possibly some of the
Western Edda lays were rescued and recorded. Many
of Snorri's poetic words are still used as tabu names in
Shetland and nowhere else. This is highly suggestive,
seeing that the islanders changed their Norse speech for
English from two to three centuries ago.
Mrs. Bannon and Mr. F. P. Marchant took part in
the discussion which followed.
Proceedings at Meetings. 133
MEETING, MARCH 14, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON. F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
Professor W. P. Ker, LL.D. (Vice-President), read
a paper on " Bishop Jon Arason."
The Chairman moved a vote of thanks to Professor
Ker for his paper, which was carried unanimously.
Printed on pp. 149-171.
TWENTY-FIRST ANNUAL GENERAL
ST. MAGNUS DAY, APRIL i6TH, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President and Founder), in the Chair.
The Twenty-first Annual General Meeting was held
at King's College, Strand, on St. Magnus Day,
Wednesday, April i6th, at 8 p.m.
The Annual Report was presented to the meeting and
The officers of the Society, nominated by the Council
for the ensuing year, were unanimously elected, Mr.
F. P. Marchant and Mr. Douglas C. Stedman acting
as scrutineers to the ballot.
Professor Allen Mawer, M.A., read a paper on
" Scandinavian Influence in English Place-names."
The meeting terminated with a hearty vote of thanks
to Professor Mawer for his paper.
Printed on pp. 172-210.
MEETING, MAY 2 3 RD, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
The President, Mr. A. W. Johnston, gave his
Inaugural Address, " Orkney and Shetland Historical
134 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
A discussion followed in which Mr. J. S. Clouston
and Mr. John Marshall took part. Printed on pp.
MEETING, NOVEMBER 2iST, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
A paper was read on " Temple-Administration and
Chieftainship in Pre-Christian Norway and Iceland,"
by Miss Bertha S. Phillpotts, M.A.
The Chairman, Dr. Jon Stefansson, Mr. John
Marshall, Mr. F. P. Marchant, and Mr. Etchells took
part in the discussion which followed. The meeting
terminated with a hearty vote of thanks to Miss
Phillpotts for her paper. Printed on pp. 264-284.
MEETING, DECEMBER 12, 1913.
Mr. A. W. JOHNSTON, F. S.A.Scot. (President), in the Chair.
A paper was read on " Thyra, Wife of Gorm the
Old, was she English or Danish? " by Captain Ernest
A discussion followed, in which the Chairman and
Dr. Jon Stefansson and Mr. John Marshall took part.
The Chairman moved a hearty vote of thanks to
Captain Rason for his paper. It was accorded by
acclamation, and the reader responded. Printed on pp.
THE CULTUS OF NORWEGIAN SAINTS
IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND.
BY DR. EDVARD BULL.
SEEING how short is the distance from the Orkneys
to Scotland, and frequent as have always been,
from the very beginning of historical times, com-
munications across the Pentland Firth, it is not
improbable that ecclesiastical customs would be trans-
mitted from Scotland to the Orkneys and from the
Orkneys to Scotland from the earliest times. As the
mediaeval sources relating to the Orkneys are rather
scanty, we know very little of the first movement 1 ; ws
are, however, better informed as to the movement from
the North southwards, especially in connection with
the veneration of the saint, Earl Magnus of the
Near the chapel of Ladykirk, in South Ronaldsay,
the southernmost of the Orkneys, whence there is the
shortest passage to Scotland, a stone is found, four feet
long and pointed at both ends. It is called the boat
of St. Magnus, 2 and local traditions concerning it still
exist. Magnus is said to have used the stone as a boat
in the same way that so many other saints have done
before him when passing the Pentland Firth, and
afterwards to have carried it to Ladykirk. According
to others the stone is really a petrified whale. It is in
fact the very whale which carried the earl on its back
from Caithness to the Orkneys, thus enabling him to
fulfil his promise to build a church and dedicate it to
1 A few disconnected remarks in the Statuta Generalia of the
Scottish Church (pp. cxiii. 111-112, 136) are almost all.
2 Mackinlay, Folklore of Scottish lochs and springs, Glasgow, 1893,
pp. yzff. The same, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland, Edin-
burgh, 1910, p. 122.
136 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Our Lady. In later times penitent sinners used to stand
barefooted on the stone.
In the northern part of Caithness, on the boundary
between the parishes of Halkirk and Watten, there was
a hospital consecrated to St. Magnus, and in the igth
century an annual Magnus Fair was still held at Hal-
kirk on the Tuesday before December 26th. 1
Even in Celtic literature the worship of St. Magnus
may be traced in the beautiful hymn, A Mhannis mo
ruin,* in which Magnus is invoked as a deity of
fecundity, who is besought to be kind to the cattle and
support the growth of plants and animals. In this
as in nearly all other prayers in the popular language
his direct help is solicited, and not only his intercession
We also find such local traditions relating to St.
Olave in the northern parts of Scotland. The church of
Cruden in Aberdeenshire was dedicated to this saint,
and was certainly very old, even if the tradition that it
was built in commemoration of the defeat of the Danes
(" crow-dan ") at Cruden, in the year 1006, by King
Malcolm, who died in 1033 or 1034, three or four years
after the battle at Stiklestad, sounds highly improbable.
In the parish a holy well, called St. Olave's, is to be
found, of which the people sing :
St. Olave's well low by the sea,
Where pest nor plague shall never be.
vSt. Olave's fair is still held at Cruden in the month
of March. 3
This last fact leads us to the official Scottish ecclesi-
astical practice in the last period of Catholicism, when
the day of St.- Olave was kept, strangely enough, in
1 Mackinlay, The pre-reformation church and Scottish place-names,
1904, pp. 380 ff. The day of St. Magnus was really Dec. I3th ; but prob-
ably the fair is of earlier origin than the worship of the Saint.
2 Henderson, The Norse influence on Celtic Scotland, p. 35.
3 Proceedings o.f the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, III., pp. 144-49.
Mackinlay, Folklore of Scottish lochs, etc., p. 105. The same, The
pre-reformation church, etc., p. 21.
The Cult us of Norwegian Saints. 137
the last days of March. Here there are two chief
sources of information to be taken into account. The
first is the Breviarium Aberdonense, belonging to about
the same time as the breviary and missal of Nidaros.
It was printed in 1509, by direction of Bishop Elphin-
stone, 1 with a view to delivering the Scottish Church
from the overwhelming influence of the liturgy of
Sarum, the use of which had been admitted for national
reasons, to counter-balance the claims of York on the
primacy in Scotland. There is full reason, then, to
suppose that this breviary contains fairly good evidence
of Scottish church practice.
The other source is a missal from the church of St.
Nicolas in Aberdeen, originally printed in Rouen, in
1506, according to the missal of Salisbury, but with
manuscript notes. These notes, according" to Scottish
investigators, bear traces of Norse influence ; but other-
wise the calendar in this missal is very corrupt and
quite overloaded with festivals. 2
According to both these calendars the day of St.
Olave is to be kept on March 3Oth, instead of on July
29th. 3 The breviary, however, lays down 4 that if March
3Oth falls in Easter week or on the first Sunday after
Easter, the celebration is to be put off till after that
1 Reprinted London, 1854, in two vols. (Pars hyemalis and Pars
estiva). The notes concerning Olave are printed also by Metcalfe,
Passio et Miracula beati Olavi, pp. nyff. (see also pp. 33ff.)
- Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 33
(1898-99), pp. 440-60.
3 3ist, according to Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis, Edin-
burgh, 1845, II., p. 7.
* The print by Metcalfe, Passio, etc., p. 33, of these regulations
is very inaccurate ; the text of Brev. Aberd. (March 3oth) : Si hoc
festum sancti olaui vel festum sancti reguli infra passionem domini
vel in ebdoma pasche aut in dominica oct. eiusdem contigerit nichil fiet
de ipsis usque post octa. pasche et ibi tune vbi conueniencius possunt
celebrari : de ipsis fiat seruicium cum tribus lectionibus istius tem-
poris. Sed cum R. iis et v. paschalis temporis. Et ita faciendum est
de omnibus aliis festis simplicibus ix. lectionum infra dictum tempus
contingenti. Ad matuti. ix. lee. fiant. See also Brev. Aberd.
138 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Sunday, and the day is then to be observed with two
lessons only. The nine lessons which otherwise belong
to the day of St. Olave, in these years, are to be read
on July 29th, upon which day only a memorial of St.
Olave is, as a rule, read. I am not able to explain this
curious feature in the Aberdeen calendar. It is perhaps
to be supposed that the March fair at Cruden is old,
and that later it took its name from the saint of the
parish church, and that then the festival from Cruden
spread either over the whole diocese of Aberdeen, or
perhaps only to the town of Aberdeen, not many miles
That the day of St. Magnus is celebrated as a higher
feast than that of St. Olave (as festum duplex), is quite
natural. So is it that not only the festival of his trans-
lation, December i3th, 2 but partly also the day of his
death, April i6th, is observed as inferius duplex, and
that the breviary of Aberdeen contains rather long
hymns in his honour, while in the case of Olave only
a very short legend is appointed. The worship of these
two saints in the northern parts of Scotland has, of
course, come from the Orkneys, where Magnus must
have been much more popular than Olave. 3
The cult of the two Norse saints, which we find in
England, is of quite a different character. Here we
find Olave more prominent, and Magnus seems a more
or less casual attendant on his great compatriot. His
worship is, however, not altogether without interest. In
southern Scotland St. Magnus is not worshipped, and
of the three churches dedicated to him in England,
two belong to the southern parts of the country, Lon-
1 To this worship of St. Olave in Northern Scotland belongs also
the altar dedicated to him in S. Salvator's College, St. Andrews
z i2th, in the missal of St. Nicolas ; i4th, in Liber Ecclesias Beati
Terrenani de Arbuthnott (ed. A. P. Forbes, Edinburgh, 1872).
'* Daaej Norges helgener, p. 206, says that the nephew of Magnus,
the Saint Earl Ragnvald, too, was worshipped in Scotland, but with-
out giving any evidence.
The Cult us of Norwegian Saints. 139
don and Dorsetshire, and only one is situated in the
North at Bessingby, in Yorkshire (East Riding). 1 Sea-
communication of any importance between the Orkneys
and England in the I2th century is not to be thought
of, and a direct connexion with the North does not
seem very probable, as the worship of Magnus is not
to be traced in southern Scotland or northern England.
There can therefore scarcely be any doubt but that
this worship reached England from Norway, and that
owing to the lively traffic between the two countries not
only has Norway been influenced from England, but
also England from Norway. That this last was the
case in the Viking Period has always been acknow-
ledged ; but as Magnus was not regarded as a saint in
the Orkneys before the year 1135, his worship cannot
have been brought from Norway to England earlier
than in the second half of the twelfth century. 2
This influence surely issued from the western parts
of Norway. Magnus, of course, like the other saints
of the Norwegian church had his altar in the cathedral
df Trondhjem ; but all other traces of his worship in
Norway, that can be localized, belong to the West.
Generally speaking, the Norwegian Church only
observe the day of his death (April 6th) ; but some few
letters from Voss prove that here, not far from Bergen,
the day of his translation (December I3th, generally
called St. Lucia's Day), was also kept. 3 In the church
of Urnes in Sogn is a runic inscription which contains
the name of St. Magnus ; and in addition to this Pro-
fessor Magnus Olsen, who has deciphered the inscrip-
tion, mentions evidence of active communication
1 Frances Arnold-Forster, Studies in church dedications, London,
1899, II., pp. 455-60. Miss Forster has no doubt that these churches
really concern the Saint-Earl from the Orkneys, and not some of the
Other saints with the name of Magnus ; but she gives no evidence, and
I have not been able to verify it.
2 But on the other hand, not much later; the Magnus church existed
already in 1203 (Metcalfe, I.e., p. 119).
* Historisk Tidsskrift, III., Series II., p. 103.
140 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
between the Orkneys and Sogn in the Middle Ages. 1
It was from these parts probably that the worship of
Magnus reached England in the I2th century.
How long the earl of the Orkneys was venerated in
England cannot accurately be told; but possibly his
cult continued until the Reformation. Henry Machyn,
citizen of London, who has left an elaborate and very
interesting diary for the years 1550-63, relates that
in 1559, on September i6th, there were burnt at
the corner of Pye-street pictures of Christ on ihe
cross, Mary, John and St. Magnus; and there is no
reason why this should have been any other than the
Norse earl, who had his church in London, near Lon-
A much more prominent part, however, is played in
England by St. Olave. He was popular as well in
Anglo-Saxon times as after the Norman conquest.
At least fifteen churches dedicated to him are known in
The oldest evidence on this subject seems to be the
story that the well-known Earl Siward of Northumbria
(1055) m the time of Edward the Confessor, built an
Olave's church at York, where he was himself buried ;
but already in the year 1098, King William Rufus
gave this church to St. Mary's abbey, 3 and only a
little parish church in the neighbourhood (Marygate)
has kept the name of the Norwegian saint. Probably
also the son of Siward, Earl Wealhtheow, had inherited
his father's love of St. Olave. During the turbulent
times after the Norman Conquest he frequently
resided in Lincolnshire, where he presented Crowland
Abbey with large donations. 4 Perhaps it is from this
1 Aarsberetning fra foreningen til fortidsmindesmerkers bevaring,
1907, pp. i35ff, 160.
2 Diary of Henry Machyn, citizen of London, ed. J. G. Nichols,
London, 1848, p. 209.
3 Arnold-Forster, Church Dedications, II., pp. 45iff.
4 Monasticon Anglicanum (ed. 1846), III., p. .546.
5 Worsaae, Minder om danske og norske i England, p. 169-74.
The Cultus of Norwegian Saints. 141
period that the stone statue on Crowland Bridge dates.
It represents a man with a huge loaf or cake, and local
tradition has supposed it to be St. Olave, whose name
has been transformed to Holofius, and by way of
popular imagination connected with the word loaf. 1
From Anglo-Saxon times also dates the votive mass
in honour of St. Olave, which is prescribed in The
Red Book of Derby, a manuscript from the diocese of
Winchester, which was written about the year 1061.
In this manuscript not only is Olave the latest saint
recognised, but the only one who is not English. 2
Finally, St. Olave's church at Exeter is earlier than
It is possible that the Xorman Conquest brought
about a reaction against the worship of the Norwegian
saint, but in no case can this have been of long dura-
tion. The communications with Norway, recorded in
the time of Henry I., 4 grew more and more frequent,
and must have kept green the memory of St. Olave.
Characteristic of the prominent part played by St.
Olave in the ideas Englishmen had of Scandinavia, and
how they considered him the real centre of all the
Scandinavian North, is the tale of the death of
Swein Forkbeard in Maistre Geffrei Gaimar's poem
L'estorie des Engles (written between 1135 and 1147).
At York was he buried :
But then after ten years or more
The Danes took up his bones ;
They were carried to Norway,
To Saint Olaf, there were they laid.
In St. Peter's minster he lay
When the Danes took him away.
1 J. Gunn, Illustrations of the Rod-screen at Barton-Turf, Norwich,
1869. Kunst og Kultur, II. (1911), pp. 5<>ff-
- The Leofric Missal, ed. F. E. Warren, Oxford, 1883, p. 244.
Historisk Tidsskrift, 3rd Series, IV., p. 357-69.
8 Dansk Historisk Tidsskrift, 5th Series, I., p. 563, notes.
4 Diplomatarium Norvegicum, XIX., nr. 32.
5 Rerum Brittanicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores (vv. 4162-69).
142 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
After the conquest of Ireland, under Henry II., an
Olave's abbey was founded in Dublin from Bristol,
and it continued (till it was abolished by Henry
VIII.) to keep up its connection with the convent of
Augustinian monks at Bristol. 1
As late as in the beginning of the I3th century we
are told that a monastery was founded in the honour of
St. Olave at Herringfleet, on the borders of Norfolk
and Suffolk. 2 Although it is expressly said to have
been founded by Roger Fitz Osbert shortly after 1216,
English writers have considered this impossible. They
have been of the opinion that all English churches
and monasteries in honour of St. Olave of which
by far the greater part cannot be dated must go back
to Anglo-Saxon times, when the Norsemen still formed
a separate class within the English people. And they
have supported their theory by referring to the fact that
all Olave's churches in England with but one excep-
tion were situated near the sea, where consequently
the Vikings and their descendants might have had
ready access. Accordingly it has been maintained that
the monastery of Herringfleet cannot have been
founded for the first time in 1216, but was only rebuilt
and enlarged at that time.
Of this older foundation, however, nothing is known
at all, and no remains have" been found in spite of care-
ful excavations, undertaken by the present proprietor
of the ruins. 3 Moreover, it seems quite superfluous in
this way to contest the express words of the text. If an
abbey in honour of St. Olave can have been founded
in Dublin at the end of the I2th century, and if the
worship of St. Magnus can have been introduced into
1 J. P. Rushe, A Second Thebaid, Dublin and London, 1905, p. 59.
J. T. Gilbert, A History of the City of Dublin, 1854, I., pp. 48ff.
Bits of the garments of Olave were preserved, already from the nth
century, in the Trinity-abbey of Dublin (Daae, Norges helgener,
2 The Victoria History of Suffolk, London, 1907, II., p. 100.
1 Kunst og Kultur, II. (1911), pp. 498.
The Cnltus of Norwegian Saints. 143
England about the same time, it is not at all impossible
that a monastery in honour of >St. Olave may have been
founded in the beginning of the i3th century.
From this same period date also two manuscripts
giving evidence of Norse influence on the English
Church. The first belonged to Fountains Abbey near
York, and is a copy of the work composed by Arch-
bishop Eystein of Trondhjem, Passio et miracula beati
Olavi. 1 The other is a psalter, originally written for the
use of King Henry III., but with some calendar addi-
tions, evidently from the i3th century, including the
following: i6th of April, Magni duds m. ; i5th of
May, Sancti Halluardi martyris ; 8th of July, Sancto-
rum in selio ; 2Qth of July, Olaui regis et martins. 2
These facts seem to be of no slight importance,
as showing that Xorse influence in England was not
restricted to Anglo-Saxon times, but continued in the
1 2th and i3th century, at a time when the Norwegians
who visited England were no longer Vikings, .but only
more or less peaceful merchants, tradesmen and clerics.
By far the greater number of the churches dedicated
to St. Olave were situated in laree towns ; at least
four in London, two at Norwich, 3 one at Chester,
one at Exeter, one at Chichester; and most of the
village churches were situated near the sea Ruckland
in Lincolnshire, Greeting in Suffolk, Gatcombe in the
Isle of Wight, and Poughill near Bude in North
The age of these churches cannot be established ; but
the theory of Miss Arnold-Forster that most of them
go back to the time when the Danes ruled in England,
seems to me highly improbable. We have no evidence
1 Edited by Metcalfe, Oxford, 1881.
2 Dansk Historisk Tidsskrift, 8th Series, III., p. 232, note.
3 Blomefield, Hist, of Norfolk (ed. 1806). IV., 2, pp. 65 and 475. An
Olave's-guild is mentioned at one of these churches in 1501.
* All these dedications are to be found in the book of Miss Arnold-
Forster (II., pp. 75iff), which, however, is to be used with some
144 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
at all that the Danes spread the worship of St. Olave
outside their own country, and we do not even know
that Olave was regarded as a saint in Denmark itself,
before the death of Harthacnut (1042). The oldest
evidence of the worship of St. Olave in England
belongs, as we have already mentioned, to the fifties
and sixties of the nth century, and some of these
churches may have been founded in these years, '
but scarcely all, or even the majority. The twenty-
four years' reign of Edward the Confessor seems too
short to include the foundation of four churches in
London, dedicated to St. Olave. And as to the sea
communications between Norway and England, we do
not know much about them in the nth century, but
everything goes to show that the reign of Magnus the
Good (1035-47) an d of Harald Hardrada (1047-66) was
not the time when they flourished most. Finally it may
be mentioned that no one of these churches as it now
stands is older than the Norman conquest, while at
least one of them, Fritwell in Oxfordshire, is built in
early Norman style. In short, the period when the
worship of St. Olave spread most rapidly in England
seems to have been the first 150 years or so after the
Conquest. And in all this time it seems to have spread
by direct influence from Norway, and not from one or
more centres originating in England itself.
A few such centres, however, existed, and trans-
mitted the worship of St. Olave not so much to other
places as to later times. First of all, London must be
mentioned, where, as late as the last century, there were
founded two suburban churches bearing the name of
St. Olave. 2 In the Ghetto of London, Old Jewry, near
1 If Snorri is to be relied upon, there was an Olave's church in
London in the reign of Harald Hardrada (1047-66). (The saga of
H. H., ch. 57).
a At Stoke Newington and at Mile End, East London. The last
one got its name because it was built from funds belonging to the
?ld church in Hart Street.
The Cultus of Norwegian Saints. 145
Cheapside, was situated one Olave's church, mentioned
for the first time in the reign of Edward the First, 1 and
in the City itself also were to be found churches dedi-
cated to this saint in Hart Street and in Silver Street.
Just outside the City, in Southwark, at the end of
London Bridge, is the still existing Olave's church in
Tooley Street. 2 At the other end of London Bridge
there stands a church dedicated to St. Magnus, and
thus the very centre of the traffic in old London was
flanked by churches dedicated to Norwegian saints.
To the church in Silver Street is attached a tale from
the last period of Catholicism, which is often quoted in
When Queen Mary resuscitated Catholicism in Eng-
land, she also desired to revive the old Catholic festivals,
cu&toms, miracle plays, etc., and of this also St. Olave
had his share. For on the 2Qth of July, 1557, the
above-mentioned Henry Machyn says in his diary :
" On the same 2Qth July, being S. Olave's Day, was the
Church Holy Day in Silver Street, the Parish Church
whereof was dedicated to that Saint. And at Eight of
the Clock at Night began a Stage-Play of goodly
Matter [relating, 'tis like, to that Saint]." 3
To these London churches finally is to be added one
at Queenhithe, on the west side of Bread Street Hill,
which is mentioned in the Liber Custumarum in the
reign of Edward I., but which was very early united
with a Nicholas Church in the neighbourhood, and a
chantry in St. Paul's Cathedral, whose age we do not
know, but which was in the year 1391 incorporated
1 Liber custumarum, ed. Riley, p. 230.
3 Tooley is the common English corruption of " St. Olave, :> as
Tullock (Toolog) is the Irish one.
3 Strype, Historical Memorials, Ecclesiastical and Civil. London,
1721. Fol., Vol. III., p. 379. The diary of H.M. as we know it has
several lacunas just for these days ; but at the time of Strype it was
still complete, and has been utilised by him. The words in [ ] were
probably added by Strype.
146 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
into the general property of the church because of its
The other centre for the worship of St. Olave in
England is the district on the borders of Norfolk and
Suffolk. We have already mentioned the two churches
at Norwich, the church at Greeting and the most
important the Augustinian priory at Herringfleet. The
coast-line has here, in the flat land, with its numerous
streams of water, changed much in the course of time.
The ruins of the old priory are now situated about five
English miles from the sea, but close by a river whose
valley gives an easy passage to Norwich. In former
times, when the water-courses were larger and the ships
smaller, the navigation over the Norfolk Broads to
Norwich presented no difficulty ; the fleet of Swein
Forkbeard is said to have passed Herringfleet on its
way to this town ; and by the old ferry as well as later
on over St. Olave's Bridge, there must have been
important traffic. Still in our own time St. Olave's
railway-junction marks this natural topographic turn-
It therefore surely was a lucrative piece of business
when the prior in 1226 got a royal license to hold an
annual fair on the day of St. Olave. 2 The priory seems
to have been prosperous for a long time ; some parts
of the ruins are built in the Tudor style ; consequently,
the priory still towards the end of mediaeval times had
enough funds to construct rather important new
Not far away (only 16 English miles), on the highest
point in the neighbourhood, is situated the church of
Barton Turf, dedicated to St. Michael. On a side-
screen in this church there is to be found a painting
from the i5th century, representing four saint-kings
1 Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis, pp. 230, 233, 235. Metcalfe,
Passio, p. 34. Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Richard II., Vol. IV..
' Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, London, 1844, II., p. 165.
The Cultits of Norwegian Saints. 147
St. Edmund, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Holofius
and King Henry VI. This last died in 1471, and
Henry VII. later on tried to have him canonized by
the Pope. Alexander VI. was not altogether unwill-
ing, but finally it came to nothing. The picture of
Henry VI. as a saint therefore must certainly date from
the last years of the I5th century. The other kings
seem to be about 50 years older. 1 It is curious evidence
of the prominent part held by Olave in England, that
as late as the I5th century he is the foreigner people
would naturally represent together with the royal saints
of the country itself.
King's Lynn, on the Wash, is the English port
which, in the i3th and I4th century, had the greatest
traffic with Norwegian ships. We do not know if there
was an Olave's church here ; but at least we hear of
a place in the town called " St. Olave's fleet." 2 The
Icelandic Saint, Thorlak, accomplished a wonderful
miracle here about the year 1200.*
Also it is probable that St. Olave was worshipped
at Grimsby, although nothing is known about it from
written sources. Only last summer there was found* on
the west coast of Norway a seal, from the first half
of the i4th century, bearing the legend " Sigillum
Monasterii S. Augustini de Grimesbi," and represent-
ing a saint king with an axe, who cannot very well be
any other than Olave. 4
The only church in England dedicated to St. Olave
and not situated near the sea, is Fritwell in Oxford-
shire. 5 It was built in the i2th century; but here, of
1 F. Gunn, Illustrations of the Rood-screen at Barton-Turf, Norwich,
1869. Kunst og Kultur, 1911, p. 50.
1 Diplomatarium Norvegicum, XIX., 462.
1 Biskupa Sogur, I., p. 357. (" Kynn " is certainly a mis-script
* Now kept in the Public Record Office (Riksarkivet), Kristiania.
6 North Oxfordshire Archaeological Society, Publications 1882 and
1903. The only trace of Norse influence in the neighbourhood is a
manor at Barford St. Michael, some miles farther west, also bearing
the name of St. Olave.
148 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
course, the worship may be older and date from before
the Conquest. It is not easy to understand how Norse
influence could reach Fritwell so late as the I2th
In this little out-of-the-way village the worship of
St. Olave has continued with incredible tenacity. In
the old parochial register for November 2Oth, 1720, is
found, among collections for the poor of the parish
itself, a collection " upon St. Olave 's church near
York," which gave a result of 2s. 6d. And still in our
own time the day of St. Olave is observed in the parish
as a great festival. The priest, dressed in a surplice with
an embroidered modern image of St. Olave, and the
parishioners walk in procession round the church; and
the sermon of the day treats of the Norwegian saint.
This custom is not as is the case, for instance, at
Herringfleet newly introduced by people with literary
education, but is genuinely old. This is proved, if
there be any doubt, by the fact that the festival is held
on the first Sunday after August 8th, not on the proper
day of St. Olave, July 2Qth ; when the Gregorian
calendar was introduced in England (1752), the
conservative peasants of Fritwell would not submit to
this alteration of the almanac, and kept the old day for
the festival, even if it got a new name, August 8th
instead of July 29th.
This sketch of the worship of Norwegian saints in
England can probably be supplemented. What we
have set forth already will, however, suffice to show
that in the matter of the relations between Norway and
England it was not Norway alone which was the
receiver during the i2th and I3th centuries, any more
than it had been during the Qth and loth centuries.
Bv PROFESSOR W. P. KER, V tee-President.
THE glory of Iceland is lost at the death of Sturla
the historian. This was not the very end of the
great Icelandic work of prose history in the
mother tongue, but the old spirit is gone; the true
imaginative rendering of Icelandic and Norwegian life,
the art of Snorri and Sturla, disappears at the union
of Iceland and Norway. The decadence of Iceland is
manifest in the failure of the great historic school ; the
decadence of Norway also, when there were no more
lives of kings written by Icelanders in the common
But the dull times of Iceland, after the i3th century,
ought not to be made out worse than they really were.
Iceland ran through its good seasons and its fortune;
but it never lost its distinctive character. It lost much;
but it kept that pride and self-respect which is proved
in the history of the language, and which saved Ice-
land from the fate of Norway, the degradation and
disuse of the native tongue. Historians sometimes
speak as if the condition of Norway and Iceland through
the bad centuries were much the same. No doubt there
is a great resemblance. Both countries are altered for
the worse through their relations with Denmark; both
turn into dependencies. But even though Iceland often
received harder treatment than Norway, as happened
under the tyranny of the Danish trade, Iceland never
gave way in spirit as Norway did. The Icelanders
kept their language and their art of poetry. They were
saved by their good grammar from the Norwegian
lethargy. They maintained their self-consciousness
over against the rest of the world ; a small community,
not as large as Athens or Hampstead. Through the
150 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
vicissitudes of a thousand years the Icelanders have
not changed their minds with regard to the use of their
minds; at any rate they have continued to believe that
they were meant to live as intelligent beings. Also,
from the conditions of their land and society, as well
as from their own native disposition, they pay more
attention to individual men than is common in other
countries. This habit of thought, which is the source
of the great historical art of Iceland, is not lost when
the historical school is closed. The history of the
Reformation in Iceland, and the life of Jon Arason,
Bishop of H61ar, may show how little the essentials
have changed in three hundred years from the time
of the Sturlungs. It is true that the life of Bishop J6n
is not written out full and fair like the life of Bishop
Gudmund, three hundred years before. But the scat-
tered notes and memoirs from which the story can be
put together were made by Icelanders who had the
same tastes, though not the same ability, as the earlier
historians. Snorri and Sturla must have worked with
similar notes, in preparation for their finished work.
The records of the time of Jon Arason show that there
was the same sort of interest in character and adven-
tures as there was when the Sturlung memoirs were
The history of the Reformation in Iceland is a drama
of persons more than in other countries. The persons,
it is true, cannot be compared for dignity, and hardly
for richness of humour, with the principal authors and
adversaries of the Reformation, with Luther or Knox,
Henry VIII., or the Emperor Charles. But in Iceland,
unlike the rest of Christendom, there is very little to be
told that is not obviously dramatic; the dramatic, the
personal values, are not obscured by general impersonal
forces and movements ; the stage i-s compact and com-
prehensible. With earlier affairs in Iceland, with the
matter of the Sagas, it is often amusing and surprising
to find how readily historical events seem to fall into
Jon Arason. 151
their place like things in a novel. One gets the same
impression in the history of Jon Arason, even although
the action was never fully represented in the old Ice-
landic narrative way. The chief situations are intelli-
gible and clear, just as they might be in a novel or a
comedy. If one could imagine a chronicle of Barset,
with the Reformation for its substance, instead of, e.g.,
the problem of Hiram's Hospital, one might get some-
thing like the Icelandic scale and mode as observed in
the life of Bishop Jon of Holar. It is tempting, though
irrelevant, to consider how the Barchester characters
might have displayed themselves if they had been
transported to the Icelandic scene ; to think of Dean
Arabin drawn into a raiding expedition by Archdeacon
Grantly, against his better judgment, yet not unwill-
ing; of Mrs. Proudie talking manfully and evangelic-
ally to the invaders, while Mark Robarts and Bertie
Stanhope were packing up the Bishop to carry him
away. How the Slopes and Thumbles would have
behaved there is no need to imagine, for the Icelandic
record has preserved their ancestors undecayed and
unmistakable. One of them did his best to edify Jon
Arason on the way to the headsman's block.
" When Bishop Jon was led out, there was a certain
priest, Sir Svein, appointed to speak to him persua-
sively. The Bishop, as he came forth from the choir,
sought to do obeisance before an image of Mary ; but
the priest bade him lay aside that superstition, and said
(among other comforting words) : ' There is a life after
this life, my lord ! ' But Bishop Jon turned sharply
and said, ' I know that, Sveinki ! ' (Biskupa Sbgur,
ii-, P- 353-)
Political novels and plays are apt to fail through over-
weight of political argument, or else, at the opposite
extreme, because they make things too obviously super-
ficial, too simple and easy. In Bjornson's political
plays the questions often seem too trivial, the politicians
not really dangerous. In Icelandic history the casual
152 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
reader may often think that the interests are trifling,
the values unduly heightened by chroniclers who do
not know the world. The documents often confirm
this view. There are extant from Jon Arason's time
claims for damages suffered in certain raids which take
up a considerable space in Icelandic history; a house-
holder feels the loss, among other things, of a pepper-
mill and a mustard-mill, and that is recorded. The
great men, prelates and chiefs of Iceland, may seem on
examination very much like the common people of the
English border. " There are a thousand such else-
where " in Liddesdale, Redesdale, and the Debatable
Land. Kinmont Willie and the Laird's Wat might
have been princes in Iceland. The great men of
Iceland, are they not great through the emptiness of
the region round them, the simplicity and inexperience
of their countrymen ? So one is tempted to ask, and this
sort of scepticism and depreciation leads of course to
such ignoring of Iceland as is shown in the histories of
Europe generally. 1
This low opinion may be contradicted and proved
unreasonable. Do not casual readers speak of the
history of Attica in much the same way and with not
much more consideration ?-' But it cannot be denied
that the material weight of Iceland is small, that the
greatest men are not rich men, that the interests are to
all appearance domestic or parochial when compared
with the fortunes of larger states.
There are at least two modes of defence in answer
to this. Material interests may be unimportant
where a principle or idea is at work. Thus,
returning to Barchester, we observe that the
historian Trollope, in The Warden, has made
the case of Hiram's Hospital into a parable or
1 Cambridge Modern History, vol. x. index, " Iceland, constitution for,
694 " : text p. 694, " Iceland received a Constitution."
2 It is a pleasure here to remember Sir George Trevelyan's translation
of Thucydides into the terms of Stirlingshire and Clackmannan,
Jon Arason. 153
allegory containing the whole of politics and the
quintessence of public opinion. The argument of The
Warden does not require a larger scale or a higher
stake, any more than Euclid would be helped if you
offered him triangles of gold and silver. There is
sometimes this kind of moral in Icelandic history.
Indeed, this seems to be the peculiar office of Iceland
among othef nations. Iceland, again and again, is
found to resemble an experimental table arranged by
Destiny to work out certain political problems neatly,
with not too many pieces in the game. So Iceland has
been made to declare the true nature of early German
civilisation ; so the life of Bishop Gudmund is a
dramatic conflict of High Church zeal with steady
respectable worldly tradition, and represents in a
personal story the contemporary life of Christendom.
So in the life of Jon Arason the Reformation is
exhibited as a dramatic opposition of characters.
But, taking the second mode of answer to those who
depreciate and ignore, we may observe that the history
of Iceland is not purely ideal or exemplary ; it is itself
part of the history of Europe and contributes its own
share of reality to the actual world. The life of Jon
Arason may illustrate the course of the Reformation in
Denmark and Norway, but it is also different from any-
thing in those countries, and has much in it that was
lacking there particularly some fortitude in opposition
to the new doctrines and their advocates. The value
of Jon Arason is not merely that his story brings out
some common humanities and some common fashions
of the time ; he is part of the life of Christendom as far
as Allhallowtide of the year 1550, and what he does is
done by no one else in Iceland, Norway, or Denmark.
The Church in Iceland was not very well taken care
of in the i5th century. The Bishops were mostly
foreigners ; of many of them, including at least one
Englishman, very little is known. One Bishop of
Skalholt, described as Confessor of the King of
154 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Denmark, discovered that there was nothing to drink in
Iceland except milk and water; therefore he made
provision and obtained from Henry VI. of England a
licence for two ship-captains to sail to Iceland with
supplies. Before him in the same diocese there was a
tyrannical Swedish bishop who had thirty unruly Irish-
men in his retinue ; he was at last (in accordance with
the popular will) tied up in a sack and drowned in
Bruara. Which, however, was not the last of him, for
in the very familiar manner of ghosts in Iceland, he
" came again " (of course as a solid body), and gave
some trouble before he would lie quiet (1433).
It would have been a great misfortune for Iceland if
the Reformation had come when there were no better
Churchmen in the cathedrals than this Swedish bishop
or the Danish royal chaplain who was so careful about
his beer. But, as it fell out, the great debate was not
left to be determined in Iceland by wholly external
powers, by Luther or the King of Denmark. Some
Icelanders very early began to think for themselves in
a Lutheran way; and on the other side was J6n Arason.
It is one of the fortunate things and one of the strange
things in Icelandic history that at the time of the
Reformation the bishop in the north was one of the
greatest men of the time, and a man who recalled the
greatness of the old days. Jon Arason, Bishop of
Holar, was not like his predecessor, Bishop Gudmund,
a great churchman with a consistent theory of the
relations between church and laity. But he was a
churchman of another old Icelandic sort, a great
chieftain, a married man with a family, fond of power
and wealth and glory, very closely resembling the great
men of the Sturlung age. It was as if Kolbein
Tumason or Sturla Sighvatsson had come back to life
in Holy Orders. And this great man was not simply
a worldly potentate with the dignity of a bishop ; he was
the chief poet of his time, and his poems were religious.
He does not represent any theory of the relations
Jon Arason. 155
between Church and State : he is not the successor of
Thomas a Becket, or of St. Thorlac. But he represents
better than anyone else the church of Iceland as it was
for centuries from the time of the first conversion the
rather easy-going but wholesome religion which in so
many ways resembles the Church of England.
Jon Arason 's poetry cannot be explained except to
those who understand it already. Like all Icelandic
poetry, its beauty is largely a beauty of form, and
of the form it may be said that Jon Arason is a master
of rhyming stanzas, apparently without much or any
suggestion from foreign literature. He worked on the
principles of Icelandic rhyming poetry, derived from
the Latin rhyming poetry of the Middle Ages, and used
those principles so as to make very beautiful stanzas in
which the artifice is not so great as to hinder the free-
dom of expression. One of his poems has had a strange
fortune. It was very early taken up by the Faroese,
and was used by them at sea for the good of their
fishery "whale-verse" being a popular name for it. 1
1 The Faroese version was edited in Aarb. Oldk., 1869, pp. 311-338, by
The first stanza is the proper 'hvalvers.'and the note on it is as follows :
" This is what Lyngby quotes in the appendix to his Faroese ballads,
the so-called 'whale-verse,' the only fragment of the poem which can
be said to be generally known. The name comes from the belief that
the singing of it had power to drive away the large whales, if there
was danger from them to fishing-boats at sea (hvis man kom i hvaln0d
ude paa havet ").
Miss Elizabeth Taylor, who has a close acquaintance with life in the
Faroes, points out that the virtue of the "whale-verse" comes from a
popular rendering of kvolum (= pains of hell) as hvolttm (= whales;
pronounced in the same way as the other word). The "whale-verse"
is thus given, loc. cit. Ljomur Bis/tups Jons Arasonar.
Hsegstur heilagur andi
himna kongurinn sterki
lovliga lit tu a meg,
signauSr a sjogv og landi
sannur i vilja og verki
hoyr tu, eg heiti a teg !
ForSa tu macr fjandans pi'nu og diki,
feikna kvolum ollum fra maer vi'ki,
ma?r veit tu taS, Mariu sonurin rfki,
maela eg kundi naka<\ sva trer liki !
156 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
The Reformation was established in Denmark by
King Christian III., in his ordinance of 1538, which
prescribed everything to the kingdom and the church,
the King being himself the head. The name of
"bishop" was disused, though the office was kept.
Under the ordinance the king appointed " superin-
tendents " for the various dioceses. These "superin-
tendents " are the Protestant Lutheran bishops, and it
may be observed that Bishop Gizur, the Protestant
bishop of Skalholt, calls himself " superintendens, "
though in Iceland the authority and name of " bishop "
were too respectable to be supplanted by this new
The ordinance was imposed without difficulty in
Denmark : the King was thinking of Denmark, and not
particularly of Norway or Iceland, when the ordinance
was granted. But Christian III. of Denmark held
himself to be King of Norway also. There was some
resistance to him, both to his title and his policy there ;
Norway, however, had no real strength, and it is here
that the difference in spirit between Norway and Iceland
comes out most clearly. To the Catholic Archbishop,
Olaf Engelbrektsson, in Norway, the Reformation was
loathsome, and there seems to have been little regard
for it among the people. But there was just as little
effective liking for the old church, and the Archbishop
of Nidaros could make no party of his own out of the
Catholics of Norway. He had to leave the country,
unheroically though not dishonourably (April, 1537),
and the kingdom of Norway accepted the ordinance,
keeping all its sympathies still for the old faith, and
taking no interest in the teaching of Luther.
The Lutheran ordinance of King Christian III. was
imposed on Iceland also. It cannot be said that the
people of Iceland showed themselves much more awake
than the people of Norway to the meaning of the
change, but there is a great difference between the two
countries. Iceland being a small country as compared
Jon Arason. 157
with Norway is much more easily affected by the talent
of any one of its members. New ideas run more easily
over the land, and it happened that in Iceland both sides
were much better represented than in Norway. The
Protestant Reformation in Iceland was not merely a
Lutheran ordinance imposed by a king. Although
there was much dissatisfaction with the change, it can-
not be said that the Reformation in Iceland was carried
through without the general consent of the people.
Icelandic history brings out very clearly the same
unpleasant interests, particularly the appetite for church
lands, as may be found in the history of the Reforma-
tion in other countries. But there was also very early
a movement for the translation of the Scriptures, and
afterwards the honour of the Reformation was main-
tained in Iceland by the great translator, Bishop
Jon Arason was born in 1484; little is told of his early
life. His father died, and Jon acted as steward for his
mother at Laugaland (near Akreyrl) till he was 24.
Then he took Holy Orders, and shortly afterwards was
married in some form or other to his wife Helga : a
contract recognised by Icelandic tradition, and not
apparently at any time challenged on any ground either
by Catholics or Protestants. He made two voyages to
Norway for Bishop Gottskalk of Holar, and after the
death of Gottskalk (1520) was elected bishop himself
(1522) by all the priests with one dissentient.
At that time Bishop Ogmund, of Skalholt, had just
been consecrated, a man in some things resembling Jon
Arason, and very well fitted to be his rival or his friend.
At first he was a decided enemy. It is curious how just
before the Reformation the "change of fashion"
(siSaskipti), as it is called in Icelandic there should
have been, after so many foreign bishops, a return to
the old natural conditions, with two men in the two
cathedrals so thoroughly like their ancestors. Ogmund
was a tall stout gentleman, with a remarkable talent for
158 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
strong language and little regard for his personal
appearance, though much for his episcopal dignity and
power. He was indeed a chieftain of the old school like
J6n Arason, but without his wit and poetry. He tried
at first to keep J6n Arason out of the bishopric of
Holar; he and Jon met once in the old fashion at the
Althing, each with his tail of fighting men, and there
was likelihood of a battle. But peace was made by the
intervention of the Abbots and other clergy, and there
was no more trouble of that kind. 1
The contention between the Bishops is told with some
detail, and evidently with much enjoyment of the old
fashioned tricks and stratagems. In that respect there
was little change after five centuries.
Generally the two Bishops behaved like heroes of the
older Sagas, and made their fortunes in the old way
by authority, maintenance, ingenious use of the law.
There is material for the history of a law case in which
Jon was concerned ; 2 the facts resemble those of the
Sturlung time. He thinks of his sons in the same way
as Sighvat Sturluson might ; the true meaning of
heredity is proved when his son Ari is made Lawman.
At the same time (in this also like the Sturlung house)
he attends to the liberal arts; to his own poetry
especially. He had no reputation for scholarship ; it
was a common belief that he knew no Latin. The
Reformation, it should be remembered, encouraged the
growth of classical learning in Iceland ; the standard
was raised after Bishop Jon's time. An interesting
document is the Latin account of him written by a
Protestant about 1600, pitying J6n for the want of
proper Latin education in his youth. Adeo miserum
est infelici temp ore natum esse. This author recognises
very fully the native genius of J6n Arason and his
accomplishment in Icelandic verse.
1 Jon Egilson has a curious story of a wager of battle in the old place
the island in Oxara between champions of the Bishops. See Diet,
2 Biskupa Sogur, ii., p. 430 sqq.
Jon Arason. 159
It is not quite easy to make out the extent of his
learning. He was undoubtedly fond of books, and the
first printer in Iceland, Sfra Jon Matthiasson the
Swede, worked under his patronage. 1 The Reformers
did much for the encouragement of study, but they had
not to begin at the very beginning.
J6n Arason does not appear very definitely in the
earlier stages of the Reformation in Iceland.
The Reformation touched the southern diocese first;
the south was more exposed to innovation, as the
Danish government house was at Bessastad ; and
Bishop Ogmund of Skalholt had to meet the impinging
forces alone. His tragedy is represented with some
liveliness in the extant narratives.
The time is 1539-1541 ; the chief personages are
Bishop Ogmund; his Protestant successor Gizur
Einarsson ; Didrik van Minden, a man from Hamburg,
deputy of the Governor Claus van Marwitz ; Christopher
Hvitfeldt, a Danish commissioner with a ship of war.
The chief witnesses, besides original letters and other
documents, are Sira Einar, a priest who was faithful to
the Bishop, and his son Egil, then about 17 years old.
Egil was alive, aged 70, in 1593, when one of the
narratives was written (Bs. ii. 237-259). Another is the
work of his son Jon, parson at Hreppholar in Arnes-
sysla about 1600. ~
Bishop Ogmund was old and blind when the
"change of manners" befel. He was riding with his
attendants one sunny day when his sight went from
him. He asked and was told that the sun was shining
bright; then he said: "Farewell, world! long enough
hast thou served me! "
He had to find an assistant and successor; first he
chose his sister's son Sigmund, but Sigmund died in
i Biskupa Sogur, ii., p. 440 sqq.
-Biskupa Annular Jons Egilsscnar, edited by Jon Sigurdsson in Safn til
Sogu Islands, i., 29117.
160 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Norway not twenty days after his consecration (1537). l
Then Bishop Ogmund, with the assent of the clergy,
chose Gizur Einarsson to succeed him. This was the
first Protestant Bishop in Iceland, and if he was not an
absolute sneak, the witnesses (including himself) have
done him great wrong. Bishop Ogmund was his
patron from very early days, and Gizur made good use
of his opportunities. He was a very able man, and
the Bishop was right in thinking so. It is hard to
discover how much the Bishop knew about Gizur's
Protestant sympathies. There is no reason to doubt
that Gizur was an earnest reformer. Like other men of
the time, he had unpleasant ways of mixing his own
profit with evangelical religion, but he seems to have
obtained his religious principles through study, and not
in a casual or superficial manner. He was associated
with Odd Gottskalksson, the translator, and with other
young Icelandic students who came under the influence
In 1539 Gizur sailed for Denmark as Bishop-elect of
Skalholt ; and that same year the Reformation dis-
played itself in a Danish attack on the island of Videy
at Reykjavik, and in spoliation of the monastery there.
The agent in this was Didrik van Minden ; fourteen
men in an eight-oared boat were enough for the busi-
ness. It seems a paltry thing, but, as usual, one must
remember the Icelandic scale; the ruin of Videy was
no less for Iceland than the ruin of the Charterhouse
was for London. In Iceland the retribution was not
slow. At the Althing, a few weeks later, all the Danes
who had attacked the cloister were outlawed and their
J Bs. ii. p. 269. Sigmund's daughter Katiin was wife of Egil above-
mentioned, and mother of Sira Jon who wrote the Bishops' Annals.
She was a child of nine, staying with her grandmother at Hjalli when
her grand-uncle, Bishop Ogmund, was arrested by the Danes in 1541.
She was keeping the Bishop's feet warm that morning, and saw what
happened. Cf. Jon Egilsson, p. 73. Hinir . . . komu til Hjalla fyrir
dagmal, og toku J>ar biskupinn i bafistofunni ; moSir min la a fotum
hans og var niu vetra ; }>eir leiddu hann ut, &c.
Jon Arason. 161
lives forfeited. The Danes made very little of the
Althing and its sentence, but here they were wrong.
In August Didrik and his men went to Skalholt to bully
the old Bishop, meaning to go further east and break
up the great cloisters of Thykkvaba3 and Kirkjubae.
Didrik blustered in his bad language, bawling at the
" divelz blindi biskup," but that was the end of him.
The countryside rose ; as he sat in the Bishop's parlour
lie looked out of the window and asked, " What is the
meaning of all those halbards?" The meaning was
that the avengers had come for him ; he had to fight
for his life; the man who killed him told Jon Egilsson
all about it (op. cit., p. 70). This happened on St.
Lawrence Day, August loth, 1539. It was followed
by strong political action on the part of the Althing.
Iceland was roused ; not only were Didrik and his men
convicted after execution and declared outlaws (obota-
menn), but a strong and clear description of Claus van
Marwitz, the governor, his robberies and forgeries
was sent from the Althing, 1540, to the King, with a
petition for his removal and for the appointment of
no one " who does not know or keep the law of the
land, and is not of Danish tongue." The previous
summer, after the death of Didrik, arrangements had
been made for carrying on the government business
through the sheriffs, without the governor. The Ice-
landic case was upheld in Denmark ; Claus van Marwitz
was sentenced by King and Council in 1542 to im-
prisonment for life. He was released the year after.
So far the people of Iceland were victorious ; Iceland
had never spoken more clearly or with better right as
a single community. But Bishop Ogmund had to meet
a greater danger than the violence of Didrik and the
other ruffians. His coadjutor, Gizur, then in Denmark,
is said to have persuaded the King that Ogmund stood
1 " Danish tongue " does not mean Danish ; it is the old name for the
old Norse language. The ambiguity may have been calculated, so as
not to offend the King. The Icelanders address the king as King of
Norway and acknowledge the laws of Norway, not of Denmark.
162 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
in the way of the Gospel. In the spring of 1541 he
came out in a man-of-war, with Christopher Hvitfeldt,
the commissioner, and set himself busily to collect as
much as possible of Bishop Ogmund's goods. The
story is pretty fully told from the report of eye-wit-
nesses, and there is a letter of Gizur himself which
shows how far any witness was from exaggerating.
Bishop Ogmund was staying with his sister at Hjalli
when the Danes came upon him. They roused him
from his bed, and took him out to the courtyard in his
long nightgown, but allowed him after that to put his
clothes on ; then they collected as much as they could
of his silver. His sister, Asdis, tried to keep hold of
him, but they pulled her away, put the old Bishop on
a horse and brought him off to the ship. How the
Bishop's silver was taken is told particularly on very
good authority. The Bishop promised to give up his
silver, and sent for the priest Einar to fetch it. Einar
(whose son Egil tells the story) went to see the Bishop
on board the ship, got his letter and seal as warrant,
and then started for Hjalli along with six Danes and
Egil, his son. Asdis gave them the keys of the money
chest, and they swept everything into a sack, dollars,
nobles, Rhenish guldens, cups and pots and all, so
that there was not a single " liibeck " left. They took
even the rims of the drinking horns. Asdis claimed
a brooch as her own, and it was given up to her. But
the Bishop was not released. They repented about the
brooch, and said they must have it too ; and the Bishop
sent a letter to his sister, and the Danes took the letter,
and brought the brooch away. But the Bishop was
not allowed to land again ; he was taken to Denmark,
and died there. King Christian was not well pleased
at the work of his servants.
J6n Egilsson, whose father and mother, Egil and
Katrin, both saw something of this affair, was told
by his grandfather, Einar, of a letter, written by
some one to the Commissioner, " not to let the old fox
Jon Arason. 163
go"; at which Christopher Hvitfeldt shook his head,
apparently not liking the style of his correspondent.
The letter is extant, and the writer was the new Bishop
Gizur. It is worth quoting in full, as a document of
the Reformation. 1 It appears that to do things thor-
oughly Gizur had gone with Claus van Marwitz (who
had not yet been recalled) to another house of
Ogmund's in Haukadal to make a search there. The
letter is written in Low German, which may thus be
" IHS. Salutem per Christum. I do your wor-
ship to know, good Christopher, that I have been with
Claus van Marwitz in Haukadal, but there was nothing
there of silver plate or any such stuff, nothing worth a
mite, except one small silver cup about an ounce weight ;
everything had been carried off before, as the old one
can tell you if he will. And there was nothing here
at all of any worth, but all cleared away together, as
Claus can inform you. Further, good Christopher, see
to it that you do not let the fox loose on land again,
now that he is safe in your keeping, for if he were to
land the people might raise an uproar. It is not advis-
able that he should come to the Althing, since many
of his adherents will be there. If possible, I will come
to speak with you, three or four days before the
" The blessing of Almighty God be with you eter-
nally. Written in haste in Haukadal, the Eve of Whit-
sunday, A.D. 1541.
" GIZURUS EINARI,
" Superintendens Schalholt.
" To the honourable and discreet Christopher Hvit-
feldt, &c., this letter with all speed. G."
It is pleasant to believe, on the evidence of Sira
Einar, that Christopher was disgusted when he read
those evangelical sentences. The author of them,, it
Printed in Safn, i., 128.
164 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
should be remembered, was the scholar who translated
the Protestant ordinance of 1538 from Latin into the
vernacular tongue : his version has lately appeared,
together with the Latin original, in the Diplomatarium
Jon Arason, who had taken his full share in the
condemnation of Claus van Marwitz, and who might
have been expected to go further, was suddenly checked
by the appearance of the Danish force and the removal
of Bishop Ogmund. He seems to have felt that the
proper course for him was to temporise, and if possible
to fend off the detestable ordinance. He was on his
way to the Althing when he heard of Ogmund's
captivity ; he stopped at Kalmanstunga and went no
further. On the ayth June he wrote forbidding all
action against the diocese of Holar, and appealing to
the Council of Norway. He also wrote in bolder terms
to Christopher ; sorry that he had been prevented by his
friends from coming to an interview ; he was ready to
accept the ordinance if it were approved by the Catholic
Church and the Chapter of Nidaros. The King
summoned the two Icelandic Bishops to Copenhagen.
Gizur went, of course ; Jon of Holar asked to be
excused, and sent three proctors, his son Sigurd, Canon
of Nidaros, being one (1542). They did homage to the
King, and swore to the ordinance, and returned in 1543.
Jon refused to be bound by their oath. But he did not
attempt any active resistance, except in so far as he
went on his way neglecting the new religion ; nusquam
non more Papisiico infantum confirmationes missas
inferias lustrationes et dedicationes celebravit aliaque
ejus farinae postliminio introducere allaboravit, to quote
the learned historian of the Church in Iceland. Jon did
not quarrel openly with Gizur. The malignant may be
sorry that he did not " teach " the superintendent of
Skalholt, or at any rate ask him to consider it possible
that he might be mistaken.
But Jon Arason must not be misunderstood through
Jon Arason. 165
his heroic death or through his spiritual songs. He
was not a blameless heroic martyr; he was a hero like
the men of the heroic age, working with craft and
policy, and sometimes with violence, and often for very
worldly ends. His fall came about through his likeness
to his ancestors; he made the fortune of his family by
the methods known three hundred or five hundred years
earlier, and he came to ruin through a mistake about the
strength of a worldly adversary. The other " big
buck " (to repeat the familiar Icelandic term), Dadi
Gudmundsson, won the match, and did not spare his
enemy when he had got him down.
The story is as complicated as an}' of the feuds in
Sturlunga. It is part of the great law 7 case of Teit of
Glaumbas, which begins in 1523, and goes on for a
century. It may be enough to say here that the Bishop
and his sons took the old methods of getting their own ;
particulars are extant of the effect of their raids, includ-
ing the loss of the pepper-mill and the mustard-mill
already mentioned. The monotonous history comes to
a head in the rivalry between Bishop Jon and Dadi
Dadi was one of the powerful men of the West, and
has left his name in tradition. It may be taken perhaps
as another proof of the Icelandic impartiality that
tradition accepts with favour both the rivals, and has
not made Dadi into a monster or a murderer on account
of the beheading of Jon. 1
Gizur Einarsson died in the Lent of 1548. At that
time Bishop Jon's spirits were high, and he was enjoy-
ing the old sport of raiding. He had let Gizur alone,
for sufficient reasons. But the vacancy of the see was
an opportunity not to be missed ; and when Martin,
the brother-in-law of Dadi, appeared as the new
Superintendent, the temptation was irresistible.
Martin seems to have been an amiable man, without
much distinction, except as a painter. He had been
1 See Jon Arnason, f>j63sogur, ii., 121,
1 66 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
engaged in trade before he took Orders. He was con-
secrated by Palladius at Easter, 1549; having spent the
winter in Copenhagen studying evangelical divinity
with Dr. Hans Machabeus, i.e., John MacAlpine,
some time Prior of the Black Friars in Perth, now a
famous Professor of Theology in Denmark. Martin
seems to have been treated in rather a condescending
and patronising way by the great Protestant Theo-
logians ; but he got his certificate in good time.
The Protestant clergy in the diocese of Skalholt were
fairly strong, and the Bishop of Holar had not made
much way there when Martin arrived. In a raid to the
West, along with his two sons Sira Bjorn and Ari the
Lawman, he picked up the new Bishop of Skalholt and
Parson Arne Arnorsson, who as officialis of Skalholt in
the vacancy had not been pliable. He hoped also to
get hold of Dadi, and there was a chance of success.
But warning was given in time ; the story as told in one
of the memoirs is not far below the level of the
older Sagas. It describes the evening at Stadarstad,
Martin's house on the south of the Snaefell promontory.
As the Bishop's sons were sitting there, talking too
freely about their plans, a man came in and sat near the
door, no one paying him much attention, till as the
dark drew on he stole away. Then he was missed;
then it was asked who was the man sitting at the door
saying nothing; and where had he gone? They looked
for him and called ; but all they saw was a man riding a
good black horse hard over the moor. He was one of
Dadi's men, riding the famous horse of which other
stories were told long after. Naturally, when the
Bishop and his sons came to Dadi's house at Snoksdal,'
their adversary was ready for them, and they had to be
content with their clerical prisoners. Bishop Martin
received a doubtful sort of hospitality during that
winter; sometimes he was a guest at table; 1 some-
1 A story told in the Annals of Bjorn of SkarSsa is translated C.P.B.
ii., P- 387-
Jon Arason. 167
times he was set to beat stockfish. Parson Arne was
for a time penned in a place of little ease; Bishop Jon
made scoffing rhymes about him.
Arne comes into a curious passage of the memoirs of
Jon Egilsson. Bishop Jon Arason had excommuni-
cated Dadi ; it happened that Parson Arne came to
Snoksdal the very day that the curse was recited at
H61ar. He and Dadi Gudmundsson were together.
' Then there came so violent hiccup on Dadi that he
was amazed : it was like as if the breath were going out
of him. Dadi said then :
' Of me now there is word
Where I do not sit at board.'
Arne answered : ' I will tell you how. There is
word of you at Holar because Bishop J6n is now
putting you to the ban.' Dadi Gudmundsson said:
4 You shall have five hundred from me if you manage
so that it shall not touch me.' Arne says : ' That will I
not do for any money, however much, to put myself so
in pawn.' But Dadi Gudmundsson kept on beseeching
him, and Arne then says that he will make the venture
' for our old acquaintance sake, but there will be a load
to carry yet, I misdoubt me.' Then both of them went
to the church, and Arne stayed without, and Dadi
Gudmundsson went in. Arne bolted the door on
him. Then he stayed long outside, and at last he
opened the door, and called Dadi Gudmundsson to
come out ; and there he saw that a shaggy year-old pony
was running up and down by the side of a water as if
he was mad. And at last the colt plunged head-first
into a hole or pool, and ended there. Arne said : ' Now,
friend Dadi Gudmundsson, there you can see what was
intended for you.' '
In his turn. King Christian in Copenhagen was
cursing the Bishop of Holar. (Monday after
Scholastica, 1549; "he has treated us with disrespect,
and not regarded our letters in no wise. Therefore we
i68 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
outlaw the said Bishop John.") And on Tuesday after
the Conversion of St. Paul, 1550, the King writes to
the clergy of Holar to choose another Bishop.
About the same time, the Protestant Doctor Palladius
writes to Jon Arason a letter which deserves to be read
for instruction in manners, hardly less than the letter
of Gizur Einarsson already quoted.
Palladius says that he is ready to explain the
difference between the doctrines of Christ and the Pope,
if only Jon will w r rite or signify his wishes to the
Governor of Iceland. As a specimen, he offers the
statement that Christ has not commanded such things
as Papal consecrations, confirmations, masses and fasts.
He sends the prayer of Manasses, in Danish, which Jon
(if it please him) may use with weeping tears. " Send
a Suffraganeus who may stay and winter here, and then
go out to reform churches and monasteries; e.g., your
son Sigurd, or Sir Olaf Hjaltason."
"Put not your trust in the Pope; he died on St.
Martin's Eve (f Paul III., 10 Nov., 1549). Perhaps
you have already had news of that in Iceland ; for Hecla
Fell often gives intimations of that nature."
Bishop Jon seems to have passed the winter comfort-
ably. His ruin came through overweening; his son Ari
(generally called the Lawman) had done his best to
keep him from more raiding ; his wife Helga thought
poorly of her son Ari for this, and stirred him in the
old-fashioned way with the present of a woman's skirt:
so that Ari went along with his father and his brother
Sira Bjorn in the last expedition.
The scene of failure is one that has come into older
history ; Saudafell, where Jon Arason and his sons were
taken by Dadi Gudmundsson, had been once the house
of Sturla Sighvatsson, and the raid on Saudafell by the
sons of Thorvald, in January, 1229, when the master
was away, is one of the memorable episodes in Stur-
lunga. It stands rather high at the mouth of a valley
looking North- West over the water, towards Hvamm
Jon Arason. 169
and other famous places, past the country of Laxdale.
Snoksdal, the house of Dadi Gudmundsson, is close
to it, below, and nearer to the sea. Saudafell had been
one chief cause of contention between the Bishop and
Dadi ; both had some sort of a claim to it.
The Bishop went there in September, 1550, not as a
raider, but to keep an engagement and attend a court.
The Lawman Orm Sturluson had been asked, and had
agreed, to hold a court at Saudafell to decide the
differences between the parties. Jon and his sons came
to Saudafell and stayed there some days. They did not
understand their enemy; he was preparing a surprise,
which was thoroughly successful. The Bishop and his
two sons were taken ; their followers scattered, every
man his own way, except two who stood fast.
But then came perplexity for the victorious side. It
was October; nothing could be settled till the following
summer. The prisoners were to be kept till the
Althing. Judgment was pronounced in a court held
at Snoksdal, October 23, 1550. The Bishop and his
sons had been outlawed by the King; the King had
commanded Dadi to take them ; Christian, the deputy,
was to keep them in custody at Skalholt, with the
assistance of Martin, till the Althing in summer. But
it was not easy to keep them safe ; the men of the North
might be expected to come and rescue their Bishop.
They were removed to Skalholt, as the court had
decided. Christian, the Governor's deputy, who had
come to Snoksdal at once after the capture, was always
in consultation with Dadi. Then at last some one said
the inevitable word: "Let the earth keep them."
Bishop Jon Arason and Bjorn and Ari, his sons, were
beheaded at Skalholt on the Friday after Hallowmas,
November yth, 1550.
How they bore themselves was clearly remembered.
It has already been told how Jon Arason answered the
poor well-meaning minister who warned him against
idolatry, and spoke of a future life. It was long before
170 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
the Reformers gave up their unnecessary consolations;
Mary Queen of Scots had to endure the same sort of
Ari was the most regretted of the three. " I went
into this game against my will, and willingly I leave
The Bishop remembered the poor of his diocese; he
always gave away supplies in spring, and now sent a
message to Holar to take care this should not be for-
gotten. He also made an epigram :
What is the world ? a bitter cheat,
If Danes must sit on the judgment-seat,
When I step forth my death to meet,
And lay my head at the King's feet.
The bodies of the three were at Skalholt all winter;
in the spring of 1551 they were brought home to the
North like the relics of martyrs.
Vengeance had already been taken for them, and it
was Jon's daughter Thorun who set it going.
Among the men of the North who went South for the
fishing that winter were some who meant to have the
life of Christian, the Danish deputy. They got him at
Kirkjubol, out at the end of Rosmhvalanes, and
surrounded the house, wearing hoods and masks a
modern precaution. Before breaking into the house
they asked and got leave from the owner : " Yes, break
away, if you pay for it after." Christian and some other
Danes were killed. It was reported that they came
back from their graves, which made it necessary to dig
them up and cut their heads off, with further preventive
Ships of war came out, too late ; and it is notable that
the commander who was sent from Denmark to bring
Bishop Jon Arason before King Christian III. was the
same Kristoffer Trondsson (a great sea-captain in his
day) who had enabled Archbishop Olaf Engelbrektsson
of Nidaros to escape from Norway to the Netherlands,
in April, 1537, out of the same King's danger.
Jon Arason. 171
The case against Jon Arason is found in the form of
a speech supposed to have been delivered by Christian,
the Danish deputy, in Skalholt, the day before the
beheading of the Bishop and his sons. This is scarcely
less remarkable than the letter of Gizur Einarsson as
an historical document of the Reformation. The follow-
ing is a good sample :
" Likewise it is known to many gentlemen how
Bishop John and his sons have set themselves to oppose
the native people of this land, who have been at cost to
venture over sea and salt water, sailing to transact their
due business before our gracious lord the King, and
many of them for their long voyage and their trouble
have received letters from his Majesty, some upon
monasteries, some upon royal benefices, which same
letters of his Majesty might no longer avail or be made
effective by no means', but as soon as they came here to
Iceland Bishop John and his sons have made the King's
letters null and void, and many a poor man has had his
long journey for nothing and all in vain."
On the other hand, it must be observed that with the
exception of some contemporary rhymes upon his death
none of the records which bring out the heroic character
of Jon Arason were written by Catholics. The curious
impartiality of the old Icelandic historians is still found
working with regard to the Protestant Reformation,
and it is Lutheran opinion in Iceland that thinks of
J6n Arason as a martyr.
W. P. KER.
Additional Note. In Nordtsk Tidskrijt for Bok och Biblioteksvdsen I.
i (1914) Isak Collijn of Stockholm reports the discovery and gives
plates of 2 leaves of the lost Breviarium Nidrosiense, printed at Holar.
I 534. for Bishop Jon Arason by Jon Mathiasson the Swede.
SCANDINAVIAN INFLUENCE IN THE
PLACE-NAMES OF NORTHUMBERLAND
AND DURHAM. 1
BY PROFESSOR ALLEN MAWER, M.A., Vice-Presitlent.
ONE of the most striking features of present-day
philological study in England and on the Con-
tinent is the attention which is being paid to
the history and development of our English place-
names. These studies are of interest not only for the
light they throw on certain philological questions, but
also and for many this is their chief interest
because of the help they give in the solution of certain
questions of historical or social interest. Recent study
of the place-names of Northumberland and Durham
has suggested the possibility that the history of the
place-names of these two counties may serve to throw
some light, however dim, on the very difficult problem
of the extent and character of the Scandinavian settle-
ments in North-east England. Attacks by Vikings on
Northern England began before the close of the eighth
century, but it was not until after the middle of the
ninth century that Northumbria fell definitely under
their power. At first the invaders contented themselves
with Northumbria south of the Tyne, but in 875
Healfdene sailed up the Tyne and devastated the whole
of Northern Northumbria. In the same year Northum-
bria was divided among his followers, and they began
to plough and cultivate it. His kingdom came to a
violent end in 877, and then, after a six years' inter-
regnum, the rule passed into the hands of Guthred-
1 Note. The earlier part of this paper, so far as it deals with
Northumberland, is an expansion of a paper contributed to Essays and
Studies presented to William Ridgeway, Cambridge, 1913, pp. 306-14.
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 173
Cnut, a prince of undoubted Scandinavian origin.
Guthred-Cnut's kingdom extended over the whole of
Northumbria, and he was followed by other princes
Siefred and Sitric who were connected with the
Scandinavian kingdom of Dublin. The authority of
these kings centred at York, and it is probable that
from 885 onwards the portion of Northumbria covered
by the present county of Northumberland was once
more under the rule of English earls, acknowledging
Alfred's authority , and holding Hamburgh as their
capital. In the reign of Edward the elder (c. 915) a
fresh Norse invasion from Ireland took place under
Ragnall. He invaded Northumberland, and was vic-
torious in a battle at Corbridge-on-Tyne against Eadred
of Bamburgh, and Constantine of Scotland. After
his victory Ragnall advanced on York, which he took
into his possession, and at the same time he divided
the lands of St. Cuthbert, (the territory covering
roughly the east and south portions of the county of
Durham), between his two chief followers, Scula and
Onlafbald. From this time (c. 921) down to the middle
of the tenth century a succession of kings of Norse
origin held sway in Northumbria, the last being Eric
Blood-axe, finally expelled in 952 or 954.
One of the many problems connected with the study
of this Scandinavian kingdom of Northumbria is the
real extent and character of the Norse and Danish
settlements. We have seen that in 875 Healfdene is
said to have divided Northumbria among his followers
in the same way that East Anglia and Northern Mercia
were portioned out among the Viking settlers there,
but the fact that Ragnall, after his victories in 928,
made an assignment of large portions of co. Durham,
would suggest either that Northern Northumbria
(Northumberland and Durham) had never been settled
in the same way as Northumbria south of the Tees,
or else that there had been some resurgence of
the old Anglian element leading to the ousting of the
174 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
invaders from their hastily acquired land, at least in
An examination of the place-names of Northumbria
supports this idea. It reveals wide differences in the
proportionate distribution of place-names of Scandi-
navian origin over Northumbria as a whole, and the
general result of this study, it may be stated at the out-
set, is to confirm the scanty evidence of history and
compel us to draw a definite line of demarcation between
the counties of Northumberland and Durham, on the
one hand, and the remaining counties of the old king-
dom on the other. Of the Scandinavian element in
these other counties it is not my purpose to speak,
except for purposes of comparison ; but the intensely
Scandinavian character of the place-nomenclature of
almost the whole of Yorkshire, of great portions of
Lancashire, of Cumberland and Westmoreland, is
evident even from the most cursory examination of the
modern map, and is made yet more clear if we study
works dealing with the actual history of these names,
such as Prof. Wyld's book on the Place-names of
Lancashire, and Prof. Moorman's on those of the West
Riding, or even better, for our purpose, the recently
published work of Dr. Lindkvist on M.E. Place-names
of Scandinavian origin, of which the first part is all
that has at present appeared.
Let us now examine in detail the place-names of
Northumberland and Durham, with a view to deter-
mining the Scandinavian element. In estimating
Scandinavian influence in place nomenclature two
methods may be adopted : (i) the rough and ready one
of studying the modern ordnance map, and attempting
to form an immediate and (in more senses than one)
superficial estimate of the number of names containing
Scandinavian elements; (2) the more accurate and satis-
factory one of collecting the M.E. forms of all the place-
names of any particular district, establishing their
history and development, and finally determining those
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 175
which may definitely be stated to be of Scandinavian
origin. In the case of the two counties at least which
we have under present consideration both these methods
have their value, for the counties of Northumberland
and Durham stand somewhat apart from the rest of
England in the character and extent of the documen-
tary evidence which we have for the early forms of
their place-names. Both alike have practically no
charters belonging to pre-conquest times, a misfortune
which they share, with but few- exceptions, with the
whole of England north of the Humber, and neither
county is mentioned in Domesday. Northumberland
has several valuable cartularies belonging to post-con-
quest times, and there are abundant references in the
national records, but, unfortunately, there were large
regalities within her borders where the king's writ
seldom ran, and for these districts the evidence is at
times scanty or insufficient. Norhamshire, Island-
shire and Bedlingtonshire belonged to the Palatinate
Bishopric of Durham, and though there are some valu-
able early charters there are lamentable gaps. Still
more unfortunate is the case of the large district of
Hexhamshire, once a regality under the rule of the
Archbishop of York. There the early records are very
scarce, and it is the more to be regretted as, to judge
from the present-day nomenclature, Scandinavian
influence may at one time have been a good deal
stronger here than in the rest of the county.
County Durham itself is in even worse case. She
has, of course, her Domesday Book, in the form of
Boldon Book, but invaluable as that work is for the
understanding of her social and economic history, it is
of comparatively little use for our purpose; for though
Boldon Book was compiled in the twelfth century there
are no copies extant of earlier date than the fourteenth
century, with the result that place-names are recorded
in very late forms, for the transcribers have for the most
part given them the forms current in their own time.
176 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
There are some valuable eleventh and twelfth century
charters belonging to the bishopric, and the records
of Durham Priory are full and valuable, but a vast mass
of early material concerned with the history of the
Palatinate has disappeared through the vandalism of
bishops and others, and we are, unfortunately, very
scantily supplied with documentary evidence for those
parts of county Durham in the extreme west, where,
to judge from the present-day map, the influence was
strongest. It is peculiarly advisable, therefore, in the
case of these counties, and more so in Durham than
in Northumberland, to endeavour to eke out the
deficiencies of ancient material by a careful use of the
modern ordnance map.
In the case of each county we will deal first with the
comparatively certain material to be found in docu-
ments of the M.E. period. It should be added here
that one or two names which have often been regarded
as evidence of Scandinavian influence can no longer be
used as such after examination of their M.E. forms.
This applies especially to the two examples of beck
which may be found in the county. The Wansbeck is
in all early documents written as Wanespic, Wane-
spike, or some kindred form, showing clearly that the
modern spelling is due to folk, or antiquarian, influ-
ence, while Bulbeck Common, above Blanchland, is so
called from the great barony of Bulbeck, of which it
once formed part. The first baron of Bulbeck took his
title from Bolbec, a Norman village near the mouth of
the Seine, and though the name is ultimately of Scandi-
navian origin, it is, of course, no mark of Viking
settlement in England. One other example of -beck
may be found in the form Fullbek, in the Newminster
Cartulary, but the name has disappeared from the
modern map and is of little importance. The place-
names will be grouped as far as possible according to
their geographical distribution. The following is a list
of the chief abbreviations used :
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 177
Abbr. Placitorum abbreviatio.
Ass. Assize Rolls for Northumberland (Surtees Soc.).
Att. Test. Attestatio Test arum (v. F.P.D.).
B.B. Boldon Book (Surtees Soc.).
Bjorkman. Z.A.N. (Zur Altenglischen Namenkunde), N.P. (Nordische
B.B. H. Black Book of Hexham (Surtees Soc.).
B C.S. Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum.
Brkb. Brinkburn Cartulary (Surtees Soc.).
B.M. ('barters and Rolls in British Museum.
Ch. Calendar of Charter Rolls.
Cl. - Calendar of Close Rolls.
D.B. Domesday Book.
Durh. Acct. Rolls. (Surtees Soc.).
D.S.T. Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres (Surtees Soc.).
E.D.D. -English Dialect Dictionary.
F.A. Feudal Aids.
F.P.D. Feodarium Prioratns Dunelmensis (Surtees Soc.).
Finch. Finchale Cartulary (Surtees Soc.).
Gray. Archbishop Gray's Register (Surtees Soc.).
H. Hodgson's Northumberland.
Hatf. Bishop Hatfield's Survey (Surtees Soc.).
H.P. Hexham Priory (Surtees Soc.).
H.S.C. History of St. Cuthbert (v. S.D.).
Inq. a.q.d. Inquisitiones ad quod damnum.
Ipm. Calendar of Inquisitions post mottem.
Iter. Her de Wark (Hartshorne's Feudal Antiquities).
Lind. N ' orsk-islandska Dopnamn.
Lindkvist. M.E. place-names of Scandinavian origin.
Moorman. Place-names of the West Riding (Thoresby Soc.).
N.E.D. New English Dictionary.
Newm. Newminster Cartulary (Surtees Soc.).
Orig. Rotulorum originalium abbreviatio.
Pat. Calendar of Patent Rolls.
Perc. Percy Cartulary (Surtees Soc.).
Pipe. Pipe Rolls (Pipe Roll Society, Hodgson's Northumberland).
Q.W. Phcita quo Warranto.
R.B.E. Red Book of the Exchequer.
R.H. Rotuli Hundredorum.
Reg. Bp. K. Register of Bishop Kellaw (v. R.P.D.).
R.P.D. Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense, Rolls Series.
Rygh. Indl. (Indledning til Norske Gaardnavne), G.P. (Gamle Per-
sonnavne i Norske Gaardnavne), N.G. (Norske Gaardnavne).
S.D. Simeon of Durham (Rolls Series).
S.R. Subsidy Rolls (MS.).
Swinb. Swinburn Charters (Hodgson's Northumberland).
Tax. Taxatio Ecclesiastica.
Testa. Testa de Neville.
Ty. Tynemouth Cartulary (Gibson's Tynemouth).
Wickwane. Abp. Wickwane's Register (Surtees Soc.).
Wyld. Place-names of Lancashire.
178 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
The basin of the Till and its tributaries :
AKELD (Kirknewton). 1169 Pipe Achelda; 1176 Pipe
Hak'elda; 1229 Pat. Akeld; 1255 Ass. Akil, Akyl,
Akyld; 1216-1307 Testa Akild', Akyld' ; 1346, 1428
O.N. a, river, and kelda, well, spring. The second
element is used in the Northumberland dialect of a
marshy place, and also of the still part of a lake or
river which has an oily smoothness (E.D.D.). Akeld
lies on the edge of the well-marked valley of the Glen,
and Akeld Steads lies low, by the river itself cf.
Wyld, p. 363, and Keld in Swaledale (Yo.). The first
element is found also in Aby (Lines.), " the -by on the
Great Eau (or river)." The O.N. a is found as M.E. a,
"stream or watercourse," in mediaeval documents
COUPLAND (Kirknewton). 1216-1307 Testa Coupland;
1255 Ass. Couplaund; 1323 Ipm. Coupelande;
1346, 1450, F.A. Coupland.
This name is explained by Lindkvist (pp. 145-6). It
is the O.W.Sc. kaupa-land, land gained by purchase
( = kaupa-jor$) opposed in a way to oftals-jorfi, an allo-
dial estate. Only one example of its use is to be found
in O.W.Scand., viz., in Biskopa Sogur. Lindkvist
notes its occurrence here and in Copeland (Cumb.). It
is also to be found in Copeland House (co. Durham)
(v. infra), and probably in the Copeland Islands, off
CROOKHAM (Ford). 1244 Ch. Crucum; 1254 Ipm.
Crukum; 1273 R.H. Cruchu' ; 1304 Ch. Crukum;
1340 Ch. Crocum; 1346, 1428 F.A. Crokome.
" At the windings." The dat. pi. of O.N. krokr, a
crook or winding. According to Rygh (Indl. p. 62)
it often refers to the bends of a river, a sense which
would suit Crookham well, for it stands on the banks
of the Till, which takes an unusually tortuous course
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 179
CROOKHOUSE (Kirknewton). 1323 Ipm. Le Croukes.
The nom. pi. corresponding to the dat. pi. found in
Crookham (v. supra). The name may have borne refer-
ence to the winding course of the Bowmont Water at
this point cf. Crookes (Moorman, p. 53).
ILDERTON. 1189 Abbr. Hilderton; 1228 Att. Test.
lldertone; 1255 Ass. Hild&rton, Ilderton; 1291
Tax. Hilderton; 1311 Reg. Bp. K. Ildirtone ;
1216-1307 Testa Hildirton; 1336 Ch. Ildretona,
Hildreton; 1346 F.A. Hillerton, Ildreton, Hildre-
ton-f 1428 F.A. Ilderton.
The history of this name is given by Lindkvist (pp.
10-11), viz., that it is the tun of a woman bearing the
Scandinavian name Hild. Hilder- is the gen. form
Hildar of this name. It is also found as the first ele-
ment in Hinderwell (Yo.), earlier HUder-welle* and
Hilderclay (Suff.). For the loss of initial h we may
compare the history of Oakington (Cambs.). Skeat
(Place-names of Cambridgeshire, p. 16) remarks that
all the early spellings point to Hoeing- as the first
element in this name.
INGRAM. 1255 Ass. Angram; 1283 Ipm. Hangrham,
Angeharm; 1291 Tax. Angerham; 1216-1307 Testa
Angerham; 1306 R.P.D. Angirham; 1324 Ipm.
Angerham; 1346 F.A. Angram; 1428 F.A. Ayn-
gramme ; 1507 D.S.T. ccccvi. Yngram.
For this name v. Angerton infra. It is very doubtful
if this name shows Scandinavian influence.
Bamburgh and district :
LUCKER. 1167-9 Pipe Lucre; 1255 Ass. Lucre; 1288
Ipm. Locre ; 1216-1307 Testa Lukre ; 1290 Abbr.
Loker; 1307 Ch. Lucre; 1314 Ipm. Louker ; 1346
F.A. Loker; 1379 Ipm. Loker<&.
The second element is M.F. ker, " a marshy place "
< O.N. kiarr, " ground of a swampy nature overgrown
with brushwood." The first element may be O.N. 16,
a sandpiper. The sandpiper specially frequents flat
180 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
marshy places, such as are often found near the sea-
shore. This description would suit the actual site of
RENNINGTON. 1104-8 S.D. Reiningtun; 1175 Pipe
Renninton; 1255 Ass. Renington; 1256 Ch. Renig-
ton; 1216-1307 Testa Renigton; 1307 Ch. Rening-
ton; 1314 Ipm. Renington.
The ultimate history of this name would seem to be
settled by the passage in Simeon of Durham (Vol. I.,
pp. 65, 80), which says that Franco, one of the bearers
of the body of St. Cuthbert (c. 880) " pater erat Rein-
gualdi, a quo ilia quam condiderat villa Reiningtun est
appellata." The name Reingualdus is doubtless the
Latinised form of the O.N. name Rqgnvaldr, borne by
more than one Viking chieftain in England and Ire-
land. The name Franco is certainly not of Scandi-
navian origin, so that probably Reingualdus was
Scandinavian only on his mother's side. The history
of the form is difficult unless we assume that the name
Regenw r eald or Rasgenald, the Anglicised form of
O.N. Rqgnvaldr was in use also in the short form
Regin or Rein, whence the patronymic Reining was
HOWICK. 1230 Pat. Haivic ; 1278 Ass. Hawick.
Haivyk; 1281 Wickwane Hoivyk' ; 1288 Ipm.
Ho-wick; 1291 Tax. Hoisoyk; 1311 Reg. Bp. K.
Houivyk; 1318 Inq. aqd. Howyke, Oivike ; 1340
Pat. Hoivyke ; 1359 Cl. Houivyk; 1374; Durh.
Acct. Rolls Hawyk; 1375 ib. Hoivik.
This name is explained by Lindkvist (pp. 182-3) as
from O.N. hdr, hor, "high," and vik, "creek, inlet,
bay," and he compares it with the Norw. Haavik,
which is found in several localities and has different
origins, but refers sometimes to a shore skirted with
high mountains or some (steep) acclivity on the shore.
The early prevalence of forms w r ith o may have been
helped by memories of O.E. hdh, M.E. ho(ive) "a
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 181
DKNWICK. 1278 Ass. Dencivick; 1288 Ipm. Dene-wick,
1216-1307 Testa Demayk; 1334 Pat. Denevvyk.
The " wick " or dwelling-place in the valley (O.K.
denu) or, possibly, of the Danes (O.K. Dend).
BROTHERWICK. 1251 Ipm. Brothirwike; 1275 Ipm.
Brothirivyk; 1216-1307 Testa Brother-wick; 1273
The " wick " or dwelling-place of a Scandinavian
settler named Broftir. This is a well-established Norse
and Danish personal name. The corresponding Eng-
lish name, Broftir, is only found in the nth century,
and may well be due to Scandinavian influence.
Bjorkman (Z.A.X., p. 27) finds the same element in
Brotherton (Yo.) and Brothertoft (Lines.). The name
is common in Danish place-names. Nielsen (Old
-danske Personnavne, p. 13), gives Brarup (earlier
Brothcerthorp), Brotherstedt, Brodersby, Brorstrup.
The basin of the Coquet and its tributaries :
BRINKBURN. 1216-27 Newm. Brinkeburn; 1252 Ch.
Brinckeburn ; 1259 Ch. Brinkeburn; 1255 Ass.
Brinkeburn; 1313 R.P.D. Brenkeburn; 1507
D.S.T. cccciv. Brenkeburn.
" The place on the steep sloping banks of the burn,"
here the R. Coquet. It is doubtful if the element
Brink- is necessarily evidence for Scandinavian influ-
ence v. Brenkley infra.
ROTHBURY. 1099-1128 H.P. Routhebiria; 1176 Pipe
Robirei, Roberi; 1200 R.C. Robery ; 1203 R.C.
Robery ; 1204 R.C. Rodbery ; 1210-2 R.B.E.
Roburiam; 1212 R.C. Roubir ; 1219 Pat. Roobiry ;
1228 Cl. Robir; 1228 Pat. Rothebiry ; 1248 Ipm.
Roubiri; 1255 Ass. Roubir, Rowebyr ; 1258-9
Newm. Routhbiry ; 1271 Ch. Rodebir, Robery;
1291 Tax. Routhebyr; 1331 Perc. Routhcbiry ;
1346 F.A. Rotnebury, Routhbery.
The explanation of this name is given by Lindkvist
(pp. 158-9). The first element is O.W.Sc. rowo>, "red,"
182 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
the diphthong aw being regularly represented in M.E.
by ou ; the second element is the common suffix -bury.
representing the dative singular of O.K. burg, " fort-
ress, castle," etc., and the name of the place was
originally "at the red fort." It is of hybrid formation.
THROPTON (Rothbury). 1176 Pipe Tropton; 1248 Ipm.
Tropton; 1216-1307 Testa Thropton; 1309 Ipm.
Thropton; 1334 Perc. Thorp ton; 1346 F.A.
" The farm by the thorp." O.E. and O.N. Porp-
tun. Throp is a fairly common metathesised form of
thorp, cf. Throp Hill (in Mitford), Dunthrop and
Heythrop ((Oxf.). The same metathesis is found in
Danish, cf. Hos-trup, Vam-drup. For the use of
thorp in Northumberland v. infra, p.
SKITTER (Rothbury). 1176 Pipe Snittera; 1175 Pipe
S niter e ; 1248 Ipm. Snither ; 1278 Ass. Snytre,
Snyter; 1309 Ipm. Snytir ; 1334 Perc. Snytir ; 1346
F.A. Snytie ; 1439 Ipm. Snyter.
For the Scandinavian origin of this element, which
is found also in Snetterton (Norf.), Snitterby (Lines.),
Snitterfield (Warw.), Snitterton (Derbys.), Snitterley
(Norf.), v. Essays and Studies by members of the Eng-
lish Association, Vol IV., p. 66.
BICKERTON. 1245 Brkb. Bykerton; c. 1247 Newm.
Bikerton ; 1266 Ass. Bikerton, Bykertone ; 1216-
1307 Testa Bikerton; 1346 F.A. Bikerton; 1428
For the history of this name and its Scandinavian
origin v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 59.
PLAINFIELD. 1272 Newm. Flaynefeld.
The first element is fairly certainly of Scandinavian
origin, ay representing the common O.N. diphthong ei.
It would seem to be the O.N. flcinn, " a pike, an arrow,
or the fluke of an anchor " (= O.E. flan), and Flayne-
feld may have meant originally a field whose shape
suggested the fluke of an anchor. Less probably the
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names . 183
first element may be an O.N. personal name. Fleinn
was the name of a gth century skald (Lind. s.v.), and
the name is also found as a nickname in Aeirikr flczin.
Rygh (G.P., p. 272) finds this name also in the Norse
place-name Flensiad. The modern name would seem to
be due to the substitution of a form more easily capable
ROTHLEY. 1233-4 Pipe Rotheleg ; 1255 Ass. Rotheley,
Rotheleg; 1271 Ch. Rotheley, Rothelay ; 1216-
1307 Testa Rotheley; 1346 F.A. Rotheley.
The first element in this name may be the same as
that in Rothbury, but the absence of any M.E. spelling
with ou makes such an etymology difficult of accept-
ance. Otherwise it may be for O.K. Hroftan-leah, the
meadow of a man Hrofta, that being a shortened or pet
form of one of the numerous Old English names of
which HroS- is the first element. A very doubtful
example of Scandinavian influence.
Basin of the Wansbeck and its tributaries :
THROP HILL (Mitford). 1166 R.B.E. Trophil; 1273
R.H. Troppil' ; 1216-1307 Testa Throphill; 1201
" The hill by the thorp." cf. Thropton supra.
TRANWELL. 1267 Ipm. Trennewell; 1280 Ipm. Trane-
well; 1310 Ch. Trail-well; 1316 Ipm. Tranwell ;
1323 Ipm. Trenivell, Traneivell; 1356 Cl. Trane-
well; 1386 Ipm. Trenivell ; 1428 F.A. T rents) ell.
For the Scandinavian origin of this name v. Essays
and vStudies, u.s., p. 68.
ANGERTON (Hartburn). 1186 Pipe Angerton; 1261
Ipm. Angerton; 1278 Ass. Angerton; 1216-1307
Testa Ang'ton; 1312 Ipm. Angirton, Angerton;
1314 Ipm. Angerton; 1346 F.A. Angerton.
For the history of this name v. Essays and Studies,
n.s., p. 58. It is very doubtful if it can be considered
an example of Scandinavian influence.
184 Saga-Book of the ] r iking Society.
FISELBY (Hartington). 1319 Pat. Fiselby ; 1378 Ipm.
Fisilby ; 1390 Ipm. Fisildene ; 1396 Ipm. Fesilby ;
1418 Ipm. Fisilby.
This is a place which has, unfortunately, disappeared
entirely from the modern map. It seems to be a
clear example of the well-known Scandinavian suffix
-by, but if so it is unique in Northumberland, and it
is impossible to explain the first element from anv
known Scandinavian name.
HAWICK (Kirkharle). 1284 Ipm. Haivik; 1216-1307
Testa Hawic ; 1346 F.A. Hauivyk.
The M.E. forms of Hawick are identical with the
a-forms of Howick (v. supra). The second element here
is probably M.E. wick, O.K. ivic, a dwelling-place,
though it may possibly be the O.N. vik, which, accord-
ing to Rygh (Indl., p. 55) is sometimes applied to a
bend of a river, and was perhaps used generally in the
sense of "curve," "angle" (cf. Lindkv., p. 145).
CROOKDEAN (Kirkwhelpington). 1324 Ipm. Crokeden;
1331 Ipm. Crokden.
Probably the " valley of a Norseman named
Krokr," though it may be " the valley with or by a
crook, or twist " (cf. Crookham, supra). For the former
cf. Wyld, pp. 104-5 (Crookells, Croston and Croxteth),
Bjorkman, N.P., p. 89, and Z.A.N., p. 58. Cf. Crox-
ton (Norf.), Croxby (Lines.), Croxton (Lines.), Croxton
Basin of the Blyth and its tributaries :
BRENKLEY (Ponteland). 1177 Pipe Brinchelaiva,
Brinkelaiva; 1271 Ch. Brinkelawe ; 1216-1307 Testa
Brinkelawe ; 1248 B.B.H. 115 Brinkdagh; 1346
F.A. Brenklaive ; 1354 P ef c. Brenkelawe ; 1479
The element Brenk- or Brink- is of doubtful Scandi-
navian origin, v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 62.
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Barnes, 185
COWPEN (Horton). 1153-95 Brkb. Cupum ; a. 1197
Newm. Cupum; 1250 Newm. Copoun; 1271 Ch.
Copun; 1292 Q.W. Copun; 1295 Ty. xci. Cupun;
1216-1307 Testa Cupum; 1315 Ch. Coupon; 1346
F.A. Copon; 1380 Ipm. Coivpon; 1428 F.A.
For the Scandinavian origin of this name i). Essays
and Studies, u.s., p. 63.
OUSTON (Stamfordham). 1255 Ass. Hulkeston, Ulkil-
leston; 1346 F.A. Ulkeston.
The tun of Ulkill, i.e., O.N. Ulfkell < Ulfketill (cf.
Bjorkman, N.P., p. 168, and Rygh, G.P., p. 269).
Cf. Ouston (co. Durham) infra.
The Tyne Valley :
BYKER. 1249-50 Pipe Byker; 1259 Ipm. Bicre ; 1255
Ass. Bykere ; 1298 Ch. Biker; 1216-1307 Testa
Byker, Biker; 1313 Ch. Byker; 1322 Inq. aqd.
Biker; 1428 F.A. Byker.
v. Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 59.
WALKER. 1267 Ipm. Walkyr; 1216-1307 Testa
Wautr-e'; 1316 Ipm. Walker; 1346 F.A. Walker,
Walcar; 1428 F.A. Walker.
' The low-lying marshy place by the wall." O.N.
kjarr, " copse wood, brushwood, especially on swampy
ground." Walker is on the low-lying ground which
slopes down to the Tyne just south of the line of the
Roman wall, a little west of its terminus at Wallsend. 1
WHORLTON. 1323 Pat. Wherleton; 1324 Cl. Wherlton,
For the history of this name, in which the first ele-
ment is O.N. hvirfill, v. Essays and Studies, ti.s., p. 70.
1 Falkmann (Ortnamnen i Shane) pp. 65 and 95, derives the place-name
Vallkdrra from O.N. vollr (plain) and kiarr. This may possibly be the
source of Walker.
1 86 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
NAFFERTON (Ovingham). 1182 Pipe Nafferton ; 1212
R.C. Naffertone ; 1221 Pat. Nafretun; 1225 Pat.
Naffreton; 1253 Ch. Naffrcton; 1261 Ipm. Naffer-
ton; 1263 Ipm. Natferton; 1289 Ipm. Natferton;
1216-1307 Testa Natferton; 1280 Ipm. Nafferton.
The explanation of this place-name, together with
that of Nafferton (Yo.) is given by Lindkvist (pp.
187-8) and accepted by Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 63),
viz., that the first element is the O.W. Scand. name
Ndttfari, night-traveller, found in the place-name Natt
-faravik (Lind., s.v.), and also in the place-name Naffen-
torp in Skane, of which the earlier form is Natfarce-
thorp. The D.B. spelling of Nafferton in Yorkshire
Nadfartone is nearest to the original form Ndttfaratun,
except that t has become d, in accordance with a
fairly common practice of A.N. scribes. One objection
to this etymology however must be raised. There is a
place Nafford in Worcestershire, of which the D.B.
form is Nadford, and whose second element must be
-ford. Nafferton might well be for Nafford-ton, in the
same way that Brafferton (Durh.) goes back to Bradford-
tuna ( = tun by the broad ford), Bretforton (Duignan,
Worcestershire Place-names, s.n.) to D.B. Bratfortune,
Swinnerton (Duignan, Staffordshire Place-names, s.n.)
to Sivinforton (= the tun' by the swine-ford), Herving-
ton (Duignan, Worcestershire Place-names, s.n.) to
Herforton (= the tun by the army-ford). Nadford is
difficult of explanation. It may be from O.K. Natan-
ford, the ford of a man named Ndta (cf. B.C.S. .165,
Natangrafas and Wyld, p. 193, for length of vowel),
with shortening of vowel in first element of compound
and voicing of t to d as above.
North Tyne and its tributaries :
HAINING (Redesdale). 1304 Pat. Haynyng; 1358 Ipm.
This place-name is probably of Scandinavian origin.
In M.E. hain is used in the sense of an enclosure or
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 187
park, and Bjorkman, Scand. Loan-words (p. 242) con-
nects it with O.W.Sc. hegna, to hedge or fence, O.Sw.
hceghn, Swed. hagn, enclosure, fence or protection,
Dan. hcgn, though he points out that as the word-stem
from which it is formed was current in O.K. the word
may possibly be of native formation. In the modern
dialect of Northumberland and Durham the word hain-
ing (v. E.D.D.) is used to denote " the preserving of
grass for cattle, protected grass, any fenced field or
enclosure, a separate place for cattle," and the first part
of the word is undoubtedly the same as the M.E. hain.
The suffix -ing may be the M.E. ing, meadow, grass-
land, a word which is itself of Scandinavian origin, or
it may be the verbal suffix -ing, the word meaning
originally the action of hedging in or enclosing, and
then being used of the enclosure itself, cf. the develop-
ment of Riding, originally "a ridding or clearing,"
and then used of the actual space cleared. The word
haining is found more than once in the place-names of
both Northumberland and Durham. 1
TOFT HOUSE (Rochester). 1397 P at - Toft.
One of the three examples of toft found in North-
umberland place-names, and the only one for which a
M.E. form has been found. It is from O.W. Scand.
toft, topt, " a piece of ground, messuage, homestead,
a place marked out for a house or building " (cf. Bjork-
man, Scand. Loan-words, p. 113).
BINGFIELD. 1180 Pipe Bingefeld ; 1290 Abbr. Binge-
feud; 1295 S.R. Bingefeld; 1298 B.B.H. 69
Byngefeld; 1479 B.B.H. Byngfeld.
For the history of this name, in which the first ele-
ment is pretty certainly Scandinavian, v. Essays and
Studies, u.s., p. 60.
i Steenstrup, Indledende Studier over de trldstt Danske Stednavnes Bygning,
p. 276, mentions place-names of the forms Hegtieden, Hegningtn, Heined,
Heiningen and connects them with the O.Dan, word Hagnath used
frequently in the laws of "enclosed " land as opposed to "common"
i88 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
GUNNERTON. 1169-70 Pipe Gunivarton ; 1255. Ass.
Cune-warton; 1269 Ipm. Goneiverton; 1270 Ipm.
Gonewarton; 1216-1307 Testa Gunivarton; 1318
Ipm. Gunwertoun; 1346 F.A. Gunwarton; 1479
B.B.H. Gunwardton, Gonivarton.
The element Gunner- in English place-names may
go back to any one of the following Norse personal
names (i) Gunnarr (m.), (2) Gunnvarfir (m.), or (3)
Gunnvor (f.) The last two names appear in D.B. in
the forms Gunivardus and Gunneuuare respectively
(Bjorkman, N.P., pp. 54-9). The old forms of Gunner-
ton suggest derivation from either of these last two
names : if any stress may be laid on the isolated spell-
ing, Gunivardton, the first of these two is the more
likely, but it should be noted that the Norse name
Gunnvarftr is very rare (Lind. s.v.) and Bjorkman
(N.P., p. 59) suggests that possibly the English Gun-
wardus is a hybrid formation, with the common English
surfix -weard. The name Gunnvqr is found in Norse
place-names (Rygh, G.P., pp. 106-7).
Valley of the South Tyne :
STONECROFT HOUSE (Newbrough). 1175-6 Pipe Stan-
croft; 1 2th cent. B.B.H. 85 Stancroft; 1262 Ch.
Staincroft; 1298 B.B.H. 109 Stayncroft; 1325 Ipm.
Stayncroft; 1326 Ipm. Staincroft; 1327 Orig.
"The croft by some well-known stone," or "the
stony croft." Lindkvist (p. 90) notes two forms only
those of 1262 and 1298 and suggests that the first ele-
ment is O.N. steinn, " a stone or rock." The forms
given above would tend to show that the name was
originally genuinely O.E., with stan as the first ele-
ment, which should have given Northern English
Stancroft. During the M.E. period substitution of the
form Stain or Stayn, derived from the O.N., took place,
under the influence of the numerous place-names with
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 189
forms like Stainton. In modern English the Northern
form Stan- has been replaced by standard English
HENSHAW (Haltwhistle). i2th cent. B.B.H. 85
Hedeneshalch ; 1262 Ch. Hethingisalt ; 1279 Iter.
Heinzhalu; 1299 Cal. Sc. Hethenhalc ; 1298 B.B.H.
113 Hetheneshalgh; 1316 Ipm. Hethyneshalch;
1326 Ipm. Henneshalgh ; 1328 Ipm. Hethynsalgh;
1479 B.B.H. Hennishalgh.
The history of this name is the same as that of the
Yorkshire Hensall (Moorman, p. 96). The second ele-
ment is the O.E. healh, a corner of land. The first
element is explained by Moorman as O.E. hceSenes,
and the whole name as the " heathen's corner," that is
some settlement made by a Dane singled out by his
Christian neighbours because of his heathen faith.
Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 45) suggests, with more proba-
bility, that the first element is the common Old Norse
name Heftinn (cf. Bjorkman, N.P., p. 66). This is
very frequently found in Old Norse place-names
(Rygh, G.P., pp. 120-1) with the same contracted form
as in the English name.
OUSTON (Whitfield). 1258 H. 2, 3, 59 n. i. Vlueston;
1279 Iter. Ulvestona.
The tun of a man named Ulf < O.N. Ulfr (= O.E.
Wulf). Oulston (Yo.) has the same origin. Ouston
in Leicestershire is from earlier Osulveston, i.e., the
tun of Oswulf, a genuine English name.
FEATHERSTONE. c. 1215 B.B.H. 89 Fetherstanhalcht ;
1222 Cal. Sc. Ferstonehalc ; 1255 Ass. Fetherstone-
laive; 1278 Ass. Fcrstanhallu ; 1346 F. A. Fether-
stanehalgh; 1428 F.A. Fetherstanehaugh ; 1479
B.B.H. F ether stanhalgh.
The place-name Featherstone is found in Stafford-
shire and also in Yorkshire. The forms of the Staffs,
place name are 994 Featherstan, D.B. Ferdestan, 1271
Fethereston, and Duignan (p. 60) suggests that the
igo Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
first element is the personal name Feader, the name of
a huscarl of Harthacnut, slain at Worcester in 1014.
If so, the name is probably of Scandinavian origin,
corresponding to O.Sw. Fadhir, O.Dan. Fathir. The
name Fafiir is of fictitious origin in O.N. (Bjo., N.P.,
p. 38). It occurs in D.B. as Fader, and is found in
Danish place-names, e.g., Fatherstorp, Faderstrup
(Nielsen, Olddanske Person-navne, p. 24). Moorman
(p. 71) accepts this explanation for the Yorkshire place-
name, whose early forms are D.B. Fredestan, Ferestane,
1 122 Fedrestana, 1166 Fetherstan, and Wyld (pp. 124-5)
inclines to the same solution for the first element in
KELLAH (Featherstone). 1279 Iter. Kellaiv ; 1479
B.B.H. Kellaw, Kellone.
The first element is possibly a shortened form of the
Old Norse name Ketill. This form is found in Kels-
daile (Lines.) (Lindkv., p. 33), in Kelby (Lines., D.B.,
Chelebi), Kelsey (Lines., Lines. Survey, Chelesei),
Kelsale (Suff., F.A., Keleshale), possibly in Kelling
(Norf., D.B., Kellinga). A possible alternative
explanation is that given by Moorman (p. in) in
explaining Kelbrook, viz., that the first element is O.N.
kelda, a spring or well, which survives in modern
northern dialects as keld or hell. Rygh (G.P., p. 158)
notes the same possible alternatives in the explanation
of some Norwegian place-names. 1
KNARESDALE. 1236-45 Swinb. Cnaresdale ; 1255 Ass.
Gnaresdale ; 1266 Pipe Cnaresdale; 1291 Tax.
Knar es dale ; 1306 R.P.D. Knar es dale ; 1325 Ipm.
Hodgson (II., 3, 78) says that the place " has . . .
the name from the Knar, a rough mountain torrent,
which intersects the western portion of it from west
to east." The torrent, however, is not the Knar but
1 Since writing the above I find that Kelloe (co. Durham), whose early
forms are for the most part identical with those of Kellah has a i2th
cent, form Celflawe = calf-hill. Possibly that is the origin of Kellah also.
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Barnes. 191
the Knar Burn, and that would seem to take its name
from Knar farm on its banks. The name is probably
of Scandinavian origin Knardal and Knarredalen
being of frequent occurrence in Norway (Rygh., G.P.,
pp. 162-3, but Rygh is unable to explain their origin.
It is difficult to explain the first element as a personal
name, as that would not explain the neighbouring
Knar, and it is clearly not the same as in Knares-
borough (Moorman, p. 118), for there is no form in d
such as Cnardesburc which would allow of its connexion
with O.K. Cenward. Rygh (X.G. I., 199) in comment-
ing on the Norwegian place-names Knarberg, Knarlag,
Knarvik, etc., suggests that the first element may be
O.N. fengrr, a large kind of ship, also used apparently
of a piece of land or hill of that shape.
WHITWHAM (Knaresdale). 1316 Ipm. Le Whitivhom:
1344 Cl. Wytquam; 1364 Ipm. Whitwham ; 1392
11 White valley." O.N. hvammr, used according to
Rygh (Indl., p. 57) of a short valley or depression,
surrounded by high ground, but in such a way that
there is an opening on one of the sides.
Derwent Valley :
ESPER SHIELDS. 1268. Ipm. Esperscheles.
The first element in this name may be the same as
that found in the Norwegian Espervik, which Rygh
explains as being an old genitive of O.N. qsp, an
aspen-tree. If so, it means the " shiels of (or by) the
aspen-tree." It might also be O.N. aspir, pi. of <$sp,
with late substitution of the ordinary Northumbrian
esp (< O.K. cespe) for Scandinavian asp. In that case
it means " the shiels by the aspen-trees." There is a
place in co. Durham called Esperley, of which an early
form (1230) is Esperdcslegh. The first element here is
apparently a personal name Esperd, otherwise un-
known, probably standing for earlier *Aesp~heard (cf.
192 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Aesc-heard). Esperscheles may be for earlier Esperdes-
scheles, with loss of unstressed syllable and of d from
the consonant group dsch. If so, it is not an example
of Scandinavian influence.
WASKERLEY (Shotley). 1262 Ipm. Waskerley; 1292
Q.W. Waskerleye; 1312 Q.W. Waskreley.
See Essays and Studies, u.s., p. 69.
DOTLAND. 1154-67, Richard of Hexham, Dotoland;
1226 B.B.H. 93 Doteland; 1287 B.B.H. 104 Dottc-
land; 1355 B.B.H. 140 Dodland; 1479 B.B.H.
The first element may be the Scandinavian woman's
name Dotta, which is found independently (Lind., s.v.)
and also in several place-names (c/. Rygh, G.P., 58-9).
The usual spelling with single t may, however, point
rather to the name Dot or Dotus, found in D.B., which
Bjorkman (Z.A.N., p. 29) attempts to explain. He
compares the O.Sw. place-name Dotabotha, possibly
going back to a name *Dote. There is also an Old
Swedish and Old Danish woman's name Dota. Bjork-
man suggests, as an alternative explanation, that it
may be originally a nickname, perhaps given with the
meaning of the Norwegian dialectal dote, viz., a dull-
ESHELLS. c. 1160 Gray 275 n,Eskeinggeseles ; c. 1225
B.B.H. 90 Eskilescales, Eskingseles ; 1226 B.B.H.
The second element in this name is the common
Northumbrian shiels, " shelters, sheds for summer pas-
turage." The form -scales shows the influence of the
corresponding Scandinavian word scales (O.N. skdli, a
hut). The correct form of the first element it is difficult
to determine. The only theory which could possibly ex-
plain all the forms alike would be that which said that
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 193
the first element is the O.X. personal name Asketill.
This is found in English in the form Askill, Askell or
Eskill. Side by side with this there is a well-established
form, Asketinus, in M.E. documents (v. Bjorkman,
N.P., p. 17). This may. well have been shortened to
Askin or Eskin. 1 The name would then have been the
" shiels " or " scales " belonging to Asketill or Aske-
tin. Esking- might then be a mistake for Eskin-.
the unfamiliar suffix -in being replaced by the patro-
nymic -ing. Another possibility is to take Esking- as a
compound of O.X. eski, ash-tree, and eng, an " ing,"
grassland. Esking- would then mean the " grass-land
with ash-trees on it." Esking would in M.E. place-
names often be written Eskin. The form Eskil- must
then be explained as due to the common mistake of
anticipating the / which is to come later in the word.
In various parts of the country.
NEWBIGGIN BY THE SEA. 1268 Ipm. Neubigging.
XEWBIGGIN BY BLANCHLAND. 1262 Ipm. Neubiggyng.
XEWBIGGIN BY NORHAM. i4th cent. B.B. Neivbiginga
B. Newburga, C. Newbinga).
XEWBIGGIN IN HEXHAMSHIRE. 1344 Pat.Neubyggyng.
XEWBIGGIN HALL (Kenton). 1216-1307 Testa. Neu-
The " new building." O.xY.Sc. bygging, a build-
ing, M.E. bigginge, and X.E. dialectal English
biggin(g] (Bjorkman, Scand. Loan-Words, pp. 32-3).
Considering the comparative rarity of place-names in
Xorthumberland which are of Scandinavian origin, it
is remarkable to find so many examples of the name
Xewbiggin, which is of somwhat infrequent occurrence
in counties with a much larger proportion of place-
names of Scandinavian origin.
1 The O.Dan, name Eskin, (Nielsen, Olddamhe Personnavne) , p. 22 may
be that same name.
1 94 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
In summarising the evidence for Scandinavian settle-
ments in Northumberland to be drawn from the place-
names found in M.E. documents we may note the
following points :
(i) That there are very few; examples in this county
of those place-name suffixes most commonly associated
with Scandinavian settlements. There is no -thivaite,
-lund, -'with, -beck, -holm or -garth, only one -toft,
dating from the i4th century, and a single example of
-by, not to be found on the present-day map. There
are, however, a considerable number of place-names in
-ker, and the name Neivbiggin is of remarkably fre-
quent occurrence. Indeed, there are more Newbiggins
in Northumberland than in any other English county.
The absence of place-names in -garth, -thivaite, -toft,
-by would seem to indicate that there can never at any
time have been any regular settlement of the whole dis-
trict, any division of the whole territory among an
organised band of settlers. The prevalence of -bigging
might at first sight seem to contradict this idea, but
the word biggin is in common dialectal use in North-
umberland for a building, and it is perhaps significant
that all the biggins 'are labelled " new." The majority
of the place-names of Scandinavian origin either con-
tain some personal name of Norse origin or they contain
some Norse element commonly found in the local
dialect. This latter statement is true of those contain-
ing held, crook, carr, flat, bing, haining, biggin.
Indeed, one noticeable feature of the Northumbrian
dialect is that it contains a far larger proportion of
Scandinavian words than the evidence of either history
or archaeology would lead us to expect, and it is to be
suspected that a good many of them are of compara-
tively recent importation into that district, coming from
districts to the west and south where Scandinavian
influence is stronger.
(2) That the settlements are rather markedly confined
to the river-valleys and to the immediate neighbourhood
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 195
of the coast, a distribution very different from that in
the Danelagh generally, and pointing again to isolated
settlements rather than to any regular partition of the
The modern map yields some few additional points
of interest. Along the coast we have a series of skerrs
or rocky islets which must owe their name to O.N.
skicer, "an isolated rock"; near to Long Houghton
there is a stretch of rock bearing the curious name
Bondi Carr. The second element is Celtic, but the first
looks as if it might possibly be the familiar bondi, " a
peasant or farmer." Down by the coast at Wark worth
there is a level stretch known as the Skaith (O.X.
skei<5, with various meanings, cf. Wickham Skaith,
Suff.), and near to Monkseaton there is a small island,
now called St. Mary's Island, or Bait Island, of which
the earlier name (i6th cent.) was St. Helen's Baits.
This must certainly be connected with O.N. belt : if it
is used in the sense of " fish-bait " the plural is
strange, if, on the other hand, it means " pasturage,"
the name can only have been given in irony, for St.
Mary's Island is nothing but a stretch of barren rocks.
These names do not point so much to settlements as to
the influence of Scandinavian seafarers, and it is worth
noting in this connexion that there is a tradition of a
considerable Scandinavian settlement at Tynemouth, a
tradition which is to some extent borne out by the
evidence of personal names occurring in mediaeval
documents relating to that town.
Inland we find a few more Xeivbiggins, and one or
two Holmes, but it should be pointed out that it is not
always certain that holm may not be a dialectal form
of hollin or holly. The element Kip, found more than
once in such names as Kip hill, Kiplaiv, would seem to-
be the dialectal kip, "a large overgrown calf," which
must itself be connected with O.Dan, kip (Kalkar, s.v.)
and Sw. kibb (Rietz., s.v.}, used with the same mean-
ing. Silliwray, near Langley, probably contains O.N.
196 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
vrd, "a corner," and means "the corner where the
willows grow." Carlcroft in Ahvinton is noteworthy
because there are no Carltons in the county (cf. Charl-
ton in Tynedale and Charlton near Hamburgh) while
Gair Shiel in Hexhamshire contains the common dia-
lectal word gair, meaning a triangular piece of land,
from O.N. geir. In the high lands to the west and
south of the county fell, grain and sike are in regular
use, and except for the absence of becks, place-nomen-
clature is much the same on either side of the Pennine
In turning to county Durham it will be well, as
before, to deal first with those names found in medieval
documents. The names are arranged in alphabetical
AISLABY-ON-TEES. 1225-9 Att. Test. Askelby ; 1311
R.P.D. Aselackeby ; 1313 R.P.D. Aslakeby ; 1314
Reg. Bp. K. Aslagby ; 1344 R.P.D. Aslagby,
The suffix -by is the common Scandinavian termina-
tion. If the first form is not a metathetical spelling
due to the scribe, the original name was the by of
Askell or Asketill (cf. Rygh, G.P., p. 17, Bjorkman,
N.P., pp. 16-20). The second form points to the name
Aslakr (cf. O.K. Oslac] as the, first element, with a
tendency to voice the k before following b (cf. Rygh,
G.P., p. 17, Bjorkman, N.P., p. 20), cf. Aslacton,
Norf. (D.B. Aslaketuna), Aslackby, Lines. (D.B.
AMERSTON HALL (nr. Embleton). 1320 Cl. Aymunde-
The tun or farmstead of a man bearing the Norse
name Eymundr, later Emundr (Rygh, G.P., p. 65), cf.
Amotherby (Yo.), of which an earlier form is Aymun-
derby. The rs in the modern form may be due to a
confusion of the genuine Norse gen. Eymundar found
in Amotherby with the anglicised gen. Aymundes.
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 197
BLAKESTON HILL (Norton). 1099-1128 D.S.T. xxx.
Bleikestuna; 1100-35 F.P.D. n. Bleichestona; 1203
R.C. Blake stone ; 1300 Ch. Blaicheston; 1335 Ch.
Blakeston; 1345 R.P.D. Blaykeston.
The above spellings leave no doubt that the first ele-
ment is the O.N. bleikr, pale. This is not recorded
as an independent name, but is common as a nickname,
and has maintained itself in the English personal name
Blake. The name means the farmstead of a man named
or nicknamed Bleikr. Lindkvist (p. 25) notes the name
of a person called Alanus Bleik in the Coucher Book of
Selby Abbey (i3th cent.?).
BRANCEPETH. 1085 D.S.T. xx. Brentespethe; 1131
F.P.D. n. Brauncepath; 1155 F.P.D. n. Brandes-
pethe; 1254 D.S.T. Ixxxiii. Branspath; 1311
R.P.D. Braundespath ; 1316 R.P.D. Braunce-
The " peth " or path of a man named Brand. The
name is probably of Scandinavian origin, for beyond
one occurrence in a Saxon genealogy the name is not
found in Old English documents before the nth cen-
tury, whereas the name Brandr was very common in
Iceland and other Scandinavian lands. The distribu-
tion of English place-names containing this element
also favours their Scandinavian origin. Branceholm
and Brauncedale (Yo.), Branston (Lines.), Brandiston
(Norf.), Bransby and Brauncewell (Lines). See also
Bjorkman, Z.A.N., p. 27.
BRUNTOFT (nr. Wynyard). 1304 Cl. Bruntoft.
The second element is the common Scandinavian
suffix meaning a clearing : the first is probably the
word burn, a stream. This often undergoes meta-
thesis in compounds, cf. Brunton (in Embleton) and
Brunton (nr. Newcastle) in Northumberland, of which
the earlier form is Burneton. Lindkvist (p. 214)
favours the derivation from O.W.Scand. brunnr, a
spring or fountain, but the example of Brunton makes
198 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
CARLBURY (Coniscliffe) 1271 Ch. Carlesburi; 1313
R.P.D. Carlebury ; 1340 R.P.D. Carlbury.
The form is from the dative of O.K. Ceorles burh or
Ceorla burh, the burh of the ceorl or ceorls, with sub-
stitution of Scandinavian Carl (O.N. karlr, a man) for
English ceorl. cf. Charlbury (Oxf.).
CARLTON. c. 1025 H.S.C. Carltun; 1307 R.P.D.
The tun of the Scandinavian carls : the equivalent
of the native English Charlton. The English and
Scandinavian forms are both widely distributed in
England. The Scandinavian forms are specially fre-
quent in Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
CLAXTON GRANGE (nr. Greatham). 1091 F.P.D.
Ivxxxii. Clackestona; 1312 Reg. Bp. K. Claxton.
The iun of a man named Klakkr. The name is of
common occurrence in place-names in the Danelagh.
cf. Claxton (Norf., D.B., Clakestona), Long Clawson
(Leic., D.B., Clachestane).
CONISCLIFFE. c. 1035 H.S.C. Cingceslife ; 1263 R.C.
Cunesclivc* ; 1271 Ch. Cunesclive ; 1306 Cl. Cones-
dive; 1313 Reg. Bp. K. Conysclive 1336 Ipm.
Consclyf ; 1345 R.P.D. Conesclyf ; 1507 D.S.T.
" King's cliff." This name would seem to have been
originally purely English, to judge from the form found
in the History of St. Cuthbert O.E. c(yn)inges clif,
but the later spellings point to the influence of O.N.
konungr ; cf. the history of Conisborough (Moorman,
p. 49), Coniston (ib. pp. 49 and 50), Conishead and
Coniston (Wyld, pp. 98-9), Conisholme (Lines., D.B.,
COPELAND HOUSE (West Auckland). 1104-8 S.D. Cop-
land; 1313 R.P.D. Coupland; 1340 R.P.D. Coupe-
For the history of this name v. Coupland (Nthb.)
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 199
COWPEN BEWLEY. 1203 R.C. Cupum ; 1335 Ch.
Cupum ; 1446 D.S.T. ccxcvi. Coupon.
v. Cowpen (Xthb.) supra.
CRAWCROOK. i4th cent. B.B. Craucrok; 1311 Reg.
Bp. K. Cran-wecrok (sic).
" Crow's crook." O.K. crawa, a crow, -f O.N.
krokr , a crook or winding. The place may have been
so named because haunted by crows, or from a man
(or woman) whose name or nickname was " Crow."
cf. Crawe, a woman's name (Searle) and the modern
CROOK. 1267 F.P.D. n. Cruketona; 1304 Cl. Crok;
1312 R.P.D. Crok; iqth cent. B.B. Cruktona,
O.N. krokr, a crook, a winding, a nook. In Boldon
Book the place is known as " the town by the crook,"
later it is called simply " the crook." The town may
be so called because it is on one of the bends or nooks
in the winding course of the Beechburn.
CROXDALE (Spennymoor). 1214 D.S.T. 36 Croxtayl;
1335 Ch. Crokestail.
The first element is the O.N. personal name Krokr
(cf. Wyld, p. 105, Croxteth). The second element, as
shown by the spelling in M.E.,is not the ordinary Eng-
lish dale but the O.W.Scand. deill, "a share, allot-
ment or portion of land." The existence of this word
in English field-names has been clearly proved by
Lindkvist (pp. 30-55), where an exhaustive and inter-
esting account of its history is given, and numerous
examples of its use are quoted from Lincolnshire and
Yorkshire. None of the examples given have survived
on the modern map, and Lindkvist has no mention of
DURHAM. 1191, Feet of Fines, Dunolm, Donelme;
1227 Ch. Dunholm; 1231 Ch. Durham; 1313-8
Ch. Durham, Durem, Duresme; 1343-6 Ch.
2oo Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
The old name of Durham was Dun-holmr, a com-
pound of O.E. dun, a hill (of Celtic origin), and
O.N. holmr, an island, hence " the hill island," a name
aptly descriptive of the site of ancient Durham, on high
ground within a loop of the River Wear, whose two
ends very nearly meet. The modern form is probably
due to Anglo-Norman influence.
DYANCE (nr. Killerby). 1207 F.P.D. n. Diendes.
A difficult name ; the first element may possibly be
O.N. dy, "a bog," cf. Rygh, Indl., p. 30.
FELLING. 1325 F.P.D. n. Felling; 1434 F.P.D.
"The meadow or grassland below the fell," O.N.
fjall, mountain, and eng, grassland. The word ing
is in common use in Mod. English dialect. The name
aptly described the position of Felling, which stands
on the ground sloping down from Gateshead Fell to the
FOLLINGSBY. Type I. 1133-40 F.P.D. n. Foletesbi;
1153-95 F.P.D. n. Foleteby, Folesceby ; 1203 Cart.
Johan. Regis. Foletteby ; 1217-26 F.P.D. n. Folas-
ceby ; 1352 Ch. Folethebi. Type II. 1416 F.P.D. n.
Folaunceby ; 1430 F.P.D. Folanceby ; 1446 D.S.T.
The explanation of Type I. would seem to go with
that of Fulletby (Lines.) of which the D.B. forms are
Folesbi, Fullobi, while those in the Lincolnshire Survey
(c. iioo), which usually gives Scandinavian names
more correctly, are Fuletebi, Fuledebi. Here the first
element would seem to be a personal name of the same
type as O.N. HafliSi, Sumarlifti, Vetrlifti. The second
of these names is common as the name of Scandinavian
settlers in England, in the form Sumerled, and forms
the first element in Somersby, and in three Somerbys
in Lincolnshire, and in Somerleyton in Suffolk. No
name Fullifti is recorded in Old Norse, but there is an
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 201
adjective full-li&a, meaning " well provided with
troops," "fully able" (v. Vigfusson and Fritzner,
s.v.), and this name, used first as a nickname, may
well have given rise to a personal name Fullifti (cf.
Selaby infra.). The forms Foletes- and Folesce- are
due to Anglicising of the name and its being given a
gen. sg. in -5. Type II. is difficult of explanation,
but as it belongs to the i5th century it stands quite
apart from any question of further Scandinavian
FULTHORPE (Wynyard). 1311 Cart. Bp. K. Fulthorp ;
1313 Reg. Bp. K. Foulthorp.
" Foul or dirty village." For the use of thorp
HAINING (Houghton-le-Spring). 1401 D.S.T. cxc.
See Haining (Nthb.) supra.
HOLME HILL (Muggleswick). 1446 D.S.T. ccciv. le
The common M.E. holme (O.N. holmr), an island
HUTTON HENRY, c. 1025 H.S.C. Hotun; 1307 R.P.D.
Hoton; 1 4th cent. B.B. Hotona, Hotton; 1430
F.P.D. Huton; 1446 D.S.T. ccxcv. Hoton.
The first element in this name may be O.W.Scand.
hor, a phonetic variant of hdr, meaning " high," which
is discussed by Lindkvist (p. 224). This element is to
be found in Huby (Lines.) possibly also in Hoby
(Lines.), and in Huttoft (Lines.), (v. Lindkvist loc. cit.
and p. 218). Lindkvist's warning that places with
Hotun in M.E. may go back to O.E. ho(h), heel, pro-
jecting ridge of land, is probably not necessary in this
case. There is no trace of a medial h in the M.E.
spellings such as we regularly find in Houghton-le-
Spring in the same county, which undoubtedly goes
back to O.E. Hoh-tun.
2O2 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
KILLERBY. 1091 F.P.D. Ixxxii. Culuerdebi; 1197 Pipe
Culuerdebi; 1207 F.P.D. Kilucrdebi; 1312 Reg.
Bp. K. Kylleivardby ; i4th cent. B.B. Killirby,
Kyliverby ; 1435 D.S.T. ccvli. Killerby.
The explanation of this place-name must go with that
of Kilverstone (Norf. D.B. Culvertestuna), Kihvardby
(Lines. Surv. noo Cuherteb') and Killerby (Yo.) For
the forms of the last v. Bjorkman, Z.A.N., p. 54. The
first element is a personal name, probably of hybrid
origin. The first element in the name is O.N. Ketill,
which often gives an O.E. form Cytel, and the second
the common English suffix -iveard (cf. Ed-ward). The
full O.N. form Ketilvaftr is not found (v. Bjorkman,
LUMLEY. c. 1025 H.S.C. Lummalea; 1196 Finch.
Lumleia; 1304 Cl. Lomelay.
For the history of this name v. Essays and Studies,
u.s., p. 64.
OUSTERLEY FIELD. 1382 Hatf. Oustre, Oustrefeld.
The history of this name is similar to that of Auster-
field (Yo.), which Moorman (p. 14) explains as from
O.N. austr, east, + " field."
OUSTON (nr. Birtley).
Surtees (Vol. 2, pp. 126 and 192) gives early forms,
Ulkilstan and villa Ulkilli, showing that the history of
this name is the same as that of Ouston in Stamford-
ham in Northumberland (v. supra).
RABY. c. 1025 H.C.S. Raby ; 1200 R.C. Rabye ; 1313
Reg. Bp. K. Raby.
The second element is the common Scandinavian
suffix -by, denoting a town, while the history of the
first element is given by Lindkvist, pp. 188-9. He says
that it is O.W.Scand. ni, a landmark. It is found in
more than one Raby, and in Raydale and Raskelf in
Yorkshire. As Lindkvist remarks, all of these names
are capable of explanation from O.W.Scand. rd = a
roe, but that alternative is unlikely. The old explana-
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names . 203
tion which connected these words \vith O.W.Scand.
(v)rd, nook, corner, is stated by Lindkvist to be no
longer tenable, as Scandinavian words commencing in
vr show uniformly conservative tendencies in English,
keeping the initial v long after it was dropped in
W. Scandinavian itself.
RACEBV. 1344 (45th Report of Deputy Keeper of
Public Records) Raceby.
In the absence of any form earlier than 1344 it is
difficult to say with certainty what may be the origin
of this name. Raithby (Lines.) has early forms,
Reythesby, Raitheby, which Lindkvist (p. 76) takes to
contain an unrecorded O.W.Scand. Hreifti, a shortened
form of Hreiftulfr or Hreiftarr. A form Reythesby
with the gen. of the personal name might well develop
to Raceby in later times.
RAINTON. c. 1125 F.P.D. xli. Reinuntun, Reningtun,
Reington; 1135-54 Cart. Hy. ii. Raintonam ; 1153-
95 Cart. Ep. Hug. Reiningtone ; 1185 F.P.D. n.
Reinintun, Renintun; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Reyn-
ton; 1228 Att. Test. Reiningtone; 1253 Ch.
The forms for this place-name are practically the
same as those for Rainton (Yorks,) (v. Lindkvist, p. 73),
and Rennington (Xthb.). For the former Lindkvist
suggests a patronymic formed from O.N Hreinn, while
in a note on Rainhill in Lanes, (p. 74, n. 2) he quotes
forms for the Durham Rainton, and suggests that the
first element in both these names may be O.W.Scand.
rein, a strip of land which forms the boundary of a
tilled field or an estate (v. Bjorkman, Scand. Loan-
words, p. 63), used in Norwegian dialect of a " long
bank of earth or gravel." It seems, however, impos-
sible to separate the history of the Durham and York-
shire Raintons, and their history may be either that
suggested by Lindkvist for the Yorkshire Rainton, or,
more probably, that given above for the Northumber-
204 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
RUMBY HILL. 1382 Hatf. Ronundby.
The M.E. form is probably a mistake for Romundby,
the first element being the common O.N. name
SADBERGE. 1154-89 Finch. Satberga; 1189 D.S.T.
lix. Sadberg; 1214, Geoffrey of Coldingham, Sath-
bergia; 1176 Pipe Sethberga; 1234 Pat. Sedberg ;
1338 Cl. Sedberne; 1307 R.P.D. Sadberg; 1318
Ch. Seberge, Sedberga; 1435 Pat. Sadberg.
There is a good deal of uncertainty about the vowel
of the first element in this place-name. The same
uncertainty is found in the case of the Yorkshire Sed-
bergh, but whereas the e-forms predominate there, in
the Durham Sadberge the evidence inclines, if any-
thing, to a as the original vowel. Sedbergh is com-
monly explained as from O.N. set-berg, " a hill whose
top suggests a seat by its shape," and it is possible
that this may be correct, though t is never found in
any M.E. form. In Norwegian dialect the forms sete
and sata are both alike used of a little flat place on a
rock or hill-top, and this might account for the variation
in vowel, the voicing of the t being due to the following
voiced b. Another possible explanation is that the first
element is O.N. sd5, " seed," used, according to Rygh
(N.G. I., 346), as a nickname. The early spellings
with th may possibly point to this, though they are
capable of another explanation, and the variant vowel
might be due to the influence of the cognate O.K. seed
> M.E. sed. In any case the name is probably of
Norse origin, as there was a " wapentake " of Sad-
berge, the only example of the use of that term north
of the Tees.
SATLEY. 1228 Att. Test.' Sateley ; 1304 Cl. S alley ; 1311
R.P.D. Satteley; 1312 R.P.D. Satley.
The first element in this word may be the O.N.
saata, a haystack, which Rygh finds in more than one
Norse place-name (c/. N.G., v. 276), the meaning being
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 205
" the meadow by the haystack." The first element
might also be the Norw. dial, seta, seta, "a flat place
on a rock, or the top of a hill," but this seems less
SCHOOL AYCLIFFE. i4th cent. B.B. Sculacle; 1440
D.S.T. cccv. Sculacley.
So-called in distinction from Aycliffe, and probably
named after its Norse owner, Skull, cf. Scoulton (Norf .
D.B. Sculetuna), Sculthorpe (ib. D.B. Sculetorpd).
This Skuli may be the very Scula mentioned above
SELABY. 1197 Pipe Selebi; 1317 Cl. Seletby ; 1322 Pat.
Seleteby ; 1335 Ipm. Seletby; 1336 Ipm. Seletby;
1460 Pat. Seleby.
The -by of a man bearing the O.N. name *Sce-li ! Qi
sea-goer, sailor. This name is not actually found, but
names \vith See- as the first element are common in
O.N., and Sce-li<Si is exactly equivalent to the name
Haf-HQi ocean-goer, which is well established. Sce-
lifti corresponds etymologically to the O.K. sce-lida,
a word commonly used to describe a pirate. For the
M.E. development of the name cf. Follingsby, supra.
SKERNE, R. 1402 F.P.D. aqua de Skyryne ; 1430 ib.
It is impossible to separate this name from Skerne
(Yo.), of which the D.B. form is Schirne, while other
early forms are Skiren, Skyryn. The closest parallel
to these is the Xorse river name Skirna (near Trond-
hjem), which Rygh (Xorske Elvenavne, p. 217) con-
nects with skirr, clear, bright, skirna, to clear up, and
skirning (a clearing), and the farm name, Skjern, in
the same district, which Rygh says is named after a
stream close to the farm.
SKIRNINGHAM. c. 1090 Hist, de Obs. Dunelm. Skirn-
ingeheim, Skerningeim ; 1135-54 Cart. Hy II.
Schirningaham ; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Skirninge-
206 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
" The homestead by the Skerne meadows." The
element -ing is O.N. engr, " grass-land, meadow," and
the early spellings in heim and eim point very clearly
to O.N. heimr rather than O.E. ham as the earliest
form of the final element. Place-names Skjern and
Skjerninge are found in Denmark (Steenstrup, op. cit.,
pp. 334-5), and we probably have the same name in
Seaming (Norf. D.B. Scerninga). Whether the suffix
has the same origin in all cases it is impossible to say.
SLINGLEY HALL (nr. Dalton-le-Dale). 1155 F.P.D. n.
The first element in this word may be the proper
name found also in the Yorkshire place-name Slingsby.
The earlier form of that name is Slingesby, and Bjork-
man (Z.A.N., p. 77) suggests that the first element is
from a Norse nickname *S10ngr or *Slengi, comparing
the modern Norw. dial, sleng, used of a growing youth
and also of an idler. In Northern English dialect to
sling is used in the sense " to go about idling, to sneak
or slink about." Bjorkman suggests that this usage
depends on Norse influence. The second element is
O.E. hlaiiv, a hill, very often corrupted in N.E. to -ley,
as if from O.E. leak.
STAINDROP. 1131 E.P.D. n. Standrop ; 1135-54 Cart,
Hy. II. Steindrope ; 1203 Cart. Joh. Reg. Stein-
drope ; 1311 Reg. Bp. K. Stayndrop.
The first element is O.N. steinn, stone or rock, a
common element in place-nomenclature. The spellings
with stan show the substitution of the common O.E.
form stan; cf. Stainton and Stanton. The second ele-
ment, -drop, is found in other place-names in England
as a variant form of \>orp, due to metathesis and stop-
ping of the continuant J>, e.g., Burdrop (Oxf.) and Soul-
drop (Beds.), but the early and uniform appearance
of the spelling drop would seem to forbid such an
explanation in this case. Lindkvist (p. 84, n. 4) sug-
gests that the second element is O.W.Scand. dropi, a
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 207
drop, or O.W.Scand. drop, Norw. dial, drop, a drop-
ping, dripping : Staindrop lies in a valley on a small
stream called Langley Beck.
STAINTON, GREAT AND LITTLE. 1284 Finch. Staynton;
1308 Ch. Staintuna.
STAINTON-LE-STREET. 1312 Reg. Bp. K. Staynton-in-
Strata; 1479 B.B.H. Staynton-in-Strata.
NUNSTAINTON. 1387 D.S.T. clvii. Nunstaynton.
O.N. steinn-tun = stone-enclosure, the equivalent
of English Stanton. For the question how far place-
names of this type can be considered names of Scandi-
navian settlements v. Lindkvist, p. 83.
SWAINSTON (nr. Sedgefield). 1351 B.M. Swayneston.
" Swein's tun." This personal name is very common
in place-names (v. Lindkvist, pp. 91-3). It is also
found as Sivin- in Swinford (Leic.), Swine- in Swines-
hurst (Lanes.), Sivan- in Swanland (Yo.). There is a
Swainston (I. of W.) containing this name : it is prob-
ably of comparatively late origin.
THORPE BY EASINGTON. c. 1025 H.S.C. Thorep ; 1197
THORPE BULMER. 1312 R.P.D. Thorpebulmer.
THORPE THEWLES. 1314 Reg. Bp. K. Thorptheules.
For the use of thorp v. infra.
THRISLINGTON HALL (Ferryhill). 1309 F.P.D. 66 n.
The tun or farm of Thorsteinn, a very common
Scandinavian name in England. It is found in Thurst-
aston (Cheshire), Thurston End (Suff. D.B. Thur-
stanestuna), Thruxton (Norf. D.B. Turstanestuna),
Thrussington (Leic. D.B. Turstane stone}.
THROSTON. c. 1270 (List of knights at Lewes)
"Thorir's farm." cf. Rygh, G.P., p. 259.
2o8 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
ULN'ABY HALL (High Coniscliffe). Newm. Uluenebi;
1314 Reg. Bp. K. Ulneby.
The -by or settlement of Ulfheftinn. This is a com-
mon Icelandic name, and from its use there Lindkvist
concludes that it was already in use in Norway during
the Viking period, though no example of its use
earlier than 1300 has been preserved to us. A contracted
form, Vlfuen, is found in a Norse document of 1411.
It is probable that a similar contraction took place in
England, giving the form Vluenebi.
USHAW. a. 1196. Finch. Ulveskahe; 1312 Reg. Bp. K.
Uuesshaive ; 1312 Pat. Uuesshawe.
The first element is probably the O.N. name Ulfr
(= O.K. Wulf), and the second the O.K. sceaga, a
wood, hence the " wood of a man named Ulfr." The
spelling skahe may be due to the influence of the corres-
ponding Norse word skogr, a wood.
WHAM. 1315 R.P.D. Northquivam, Qivhom.
v. Whitwham (Nthb.) supra.
Taking a survey of the whole county, the number of
names is of course absolutely smaller than in North-
umberland, but in estimating the relative proportion
we must bear in mind (i) that a much smaller propor-
tion of the place-names of the whole county is preserved
in mediaeval documents in Durham than in Northumber-
land ; (2) that the county has only one-half the area of
co. Northumberland. Bearing these two points in mind,
it is probable that there is relatively a much greater pro-
portion of Scandinavian names in Durham. We have
several clear examples of -by, some of -ing, -toft, and
-holm, several containing the element crook, and the
names are scattered fairly well over the county. Still,
they are not so numerous as to suggest any definite
partition. There does not seem to be any special preva-
lence of Scandinavian names even in those districts
assigned by Raegeneald to his followers, Scula and
Scandinavian Influence in Place-Names. 209
Onlafbeald, viz., from Castle Eden south to Billing-
ham-in-Teesdale, and from Castle Eden north and west
to the Wear.
In studying the modern map we find the continued
use of Scar along the coast (e.g., Long Scar), and
Loom, by Easington, may well be the same as the
familiar Norse place-name Lorn, dat. pi. of L6, a word
of somewhat uncertain meaning. Medieval documents
show that Holmside and Butterby are no evidence for
Scandinavian settlement. Holmside is from earlier
Holinside (from M.E. holen, holly), and Butterby is
Beautrove or Beautrone (the latter a blunder of the
transcriber), meaning apparently " the well situated "
(beau trouve), a name which aptly describes the position
of Butterby on the well-wooded winding banks of the
Wear (cf. Bear Park in the immediate neighbourhood
from earlier Beau Repair). Biggin and Newbiggin are
fairly common, garth is occasionally used, there are
many holms and a few tofts, -mire is fairly common,
and so is -carr, -her. Waskerley in the N.W. probably
has the same history as in Northumberland, and so has
Nafferton. In the high ground at the head of Wear-
dale and Teesdale place-nomenclature is very largely
Scandinavian : there are fells, grains, sikes, becks and
gills in abundance, and it is much to be regretted that
there is a great scarcity of early forms for these districts.
Again, as in Northumberland, the great increase in
the extreme west would seem to point to settlements
from Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire,
rather than from the eastern side of the county, though
it should be noted that fell is found as far east as Gates-
head Fell and Low Fell. The use of beck is significant.
The tributaries of Tyne and Wear are all called burn,
except in the extreme west of the county, and here a
name like Beechburn Beck shows that they are not all
original. On the other hand the tributaries of the Tees
are almost uniformly known as beck, even in the
easternmost parts of the county.
2io Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Finally, a word must be said about two suffixes over
which there has been a good deal of discussion in deal-
ing with questions of Scandinavian influence, viz.,
-dale and -thorp. With regard to dale, this is the
common word for a valley in Northumberland and
Durham alike. From the time of the earliest records
we hear of Glendale, Coquetdale, Tynedale, Allendale,
Redesdale, Wear dale, Teesdale, and as there is so little
Scandinavian nomenclature in Northumberland, and
not much in Durham, it seems safe to conclude that
this use of dale is Anglian rather than Scandinavian,
though it may have been extended under the influence
of the later settlers. One piece of evidence in this
connexion seems to have been overlooked. Dalton-le-
Dale is called Daltun already in Bede's history, so
that the use of the word in Anglian place-names is
The case of thorp is more difficult. There are thorps
in southern England in Bucks., Oxon. and other
counties outside the sphere of Danish or Norse influ-
ence, but they are scattered and comparatively few in
number. Thorps are abundant in East Anglia and
Northern Mercia and in Yorkshire, just where Scandi-
navian influence is admittedly strongest. In North-
umberland, the only two thorps are both in places where
there seems to have been a small collection of Scandi-
navian settlements, while in Durham there are three
thorps, all in those lands of St. Cuthbert which we
know to have been at one time in the hands of Viking
settlers. While not denying that thorp may often be
of native origin, it seems to be fairly clear from the
evidence of Northumberland and Durham that it is
often a mark of Scandinavian settlement.
ORKNEY AND SHETLAND
BY A. VV. JOHNSTON, F.S.A.Scor., President.
IT has been shown by professor Alexander Bugge and
dr. Jakob Jakobsen that the Norse colonisation of the
islands must have begun as early as, if not earlier
than 700, to account for the primitive forms of Norse
place-names and institutions which are to be found
there and not in the later colonies in Iceland and else-
where. 1 The place-names of Orkney and Shetland
seem to indicate that the colonists came from western
Norway. On the assumption that the 68al 2 succession
of Gulathing-Law was in force at that time, we
have, however, historical proof in the sagas that
Orkney was colonised, at the latest, circa 664. When
king Harald harfagri fined the boendr of Orkney,
shortly after 893 (say 895), they were unable to pay
him, whereupon earl Einar paid the fine on condition
that the boendr gave him their ofiul, until they were
able to redeem them. We have here these facts :
(i) Orkney was in the possession of 65almenn, and
6Sal law was in full force with its lausn, right of
redemption ; (2) it took five generations of continuous
ownership of land to make it 6Sal ; consequently (3) the
youngest 6Sal family must have dated from the year
730 (i.e., 895, less five generations of 33 years each).
It is incredible that all these families began possession
in the same year and exactly five generations before
895. We shall, therefore, be safe in allowing a
minimum addition of two generations, or sixty-six
years, to allow for the colonisation of the islands, which
1 Vesterlandenes Inflydelse paa Nordboernes, A. Bugge. Shetlandstfernes
Stednavne, J. Jakobsen.
/, pi. 68ul, property held in allodial tenure.
212 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
would thus have begun at the latest circa 664. * The
later colonisation of Iceland was effected in some fifty
years, but this settlement arose from a definite political
cause in the lifetime of one man, Harald harfagri.
According to the accepted chronology, the Norsemen
made their first appearance in England in 787, and in
the west of Scotland and Ireland in 795. Orkney and
Shetland, being the nearest western land to Norway,
would be first visited. From 565, the time when Orkney
and Shetland were Christianised, three generations, or
ninety-nine years, would be ample time to account for
the Pictish ecclesiastical monuments of which the
remains have been found. It was only some fifty
years after the Norsemen in Orkney were converted
themselves that their earl made a pilgrimage to Rome
and built a cathedral.
It has been contended that the first Norse settlers
found the islands without inhabitants, because the sagas
make no mention of any having been found there. But
the sagas only commence with the history of the islands
at the time the earldom was founded in 872, nearly two
centuries after their colonisation which is not referred
to at all. It is incredible that the Pictish ecclesiastical
buildings, of which the remains have been found,
could have been erected, utilised and abandoned and
the islands deserted in the short space of a hundred
years or even less.
The total absence of any record or tradition regarding
the first arrival of the Norsemen in Orkney, and the
continued presence of the Picts, as is shown by the sur-
vival of their place-names and church dedications,
appear to indicate that the first colonisation by the
vikings was gradual and peaceful, that they inter-
married with the Picts, as they did later on with the
Irish in Ireland, and that perhaps Christianity never
1 The colonisation of Shetland lias been already dated, 620 (Ud. N.H.,
ii., 10, quoting Otto Bremer : Ethnographic der germanischen
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 213
entirely died out in the islands. The latter supposition,
if correct, may account for the ease with which the
vikings ultimately became Christians.
Although no anthropological survey has yet been
made in the islands, it would not be surprising if such
a survey should reveal Pictish features coinciding, even
after all these twelve centuries, with the districts pre-
serving Pictish place-names, presumably the inland
and inaccessible places, as is the case in the Isle of
The comparatively small number of Pictish place-
names in the islands must be accounted for by the pre-
dominance of the Norsemen, whose language would
have been consequently adopted by the Picts. Many so-
called Norse place-names may be unrecognisable glosses
of Pictish names. The name Orkney itself is a gloss of
a Pictish name, and so also probably is Shetland. 1 If
the names of the two groups themselves are not of
Norse origin, and only clothed in Norse garments, what
may not be the names of the lesser islands and places ?
The persistency of Norse, as compared with Pictish
place-names is well illustrated in the Hebrides, where
the population, during the Norse period and until their
cession to Scotland in 1266, was probably bilingual,
the Gaels and the Norse each speaking their own lan-
guage. Since the cession to Scotland, after which the
rulers were no longer appointed by or under Norway,
political influences very quickly made the Norsemen
adopt the Gaelic language. And yet after all these
centuries, since the extinction of the Norse language,
Norse place-names still flourish with but a very slight
Gaelic tinge. Moreover, there are many Norse loan-
words in Gaelic, whereas there are very fe\v Gaelic
loan-words in Scandinavian.
The second migration from Norway to Orkney took
place after king Harald harfagri began to consolidate
Norway into one kingdom, 860-933 ; during which
1 Old-Lore Miscellany (Viking Society), v., 14, 104-8, vi., 10-19, 74-
214 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
period Iceland was colonised. He conquered Orkney
and Shetland, and erected them into an earldom in 872.
The first colonists no doubt took their Norwegian laws
and form of government with them, and these would
naturally have been conformed to Harald's new Nor-
wegian constitution, when he founded the earldom.
It is stated in Heimskringla that Iceland and Faroe
were discovered and peopled during Harald's reign,
and that there was also much faring of Northmen to
Shetland, and further, that many mighty men of Nor-
way fled as outlaws and fell to warring in the west,
spending the winter in the Hebrides and Orkney, and
the summer in raiding Norway. It is 'also stated that
before Harald's time, Orkney had been the haunt of
vikings (vikingabaeli). The special reference to the
faring of Norwegians to Shetland and not to Orkney,
in Harald's reign, appears to indicate that Shetland
had not been previously so fully colonised as Orkney.
This surmise appears to be supported by the researches
of dr. Jakobsen, who has found older forms of place-
names in Orkney than in Shetland.
The earliest Scandinavian literature consists of runic
inscriptions. Writing began in Norway in the middle
of the eleventh century, with the taking down of the
hitherto oral code of laws, known as Grdgds, a work
now lost. In Iceland the laws w r ere taken down in 1118.
which was followed by the recording of the oral sagas.
The oral Edda lays are supposed to have been taken
down in the twelfth century.
There can be little doubt that the adoption of Christi-
anity by the Norse, circa 1000, with its written scrip-
tures and missals, set the fashion of writing ; not to
forget the great and uncongenial burden it would have
been on the lawsayingmen to be suddenly called upon
to add to their memory the voluminous new laws deal-
ing with the establishment of Christianity.
As regards Orkney and Shetland we may therefore
assume that their laws were written down at the same
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 215
time as they were in Norway, and also at the instiga-
tion of king St. Olaf, the great apostle of Christianity
in the north ; if indeed his code itself was not actually
adopted by or imposed upon the islands, which seems
From the middle of the twelfth century we find the
Orkney earl St. Rognvald, and, after him, the Orkney
bishop Biarni, the skald, both expert poets, busy at
work with Icelandic skalds, and we have some of their
literature preserved. It was during this period that the
Edda lays are supposed to have been taken down, and,
as some of them have a local setting, it is not improb-
able that some, at least, may have been rescued from
the mouths of Orkneymen and Shetlanders. It is
significant that many Edda poetic words are now alone
in use, as seanames, in Shetland. 1 Professor Sophus
Bugge was of opinion that the lays were composed in
the British Isles, in proximity to Christian influence."
Such of these lays as may have been composed in
Britain before 787-795, when the Norsemen first
appeared in the west of Scotland, Ireland and England,
could only have been composed in Orkney, where, it
has been shown, the Norse arrived circa 664, and lived
among the Christian Picts, but it appears to be gener-
ally agreed now, that none of the lays could have been
composed earlier than the ninth century.
In common with other Norse places, Orkney and
Shetland had their sagas and poems. There are the
sagas of the earls, 872-1206, which were taken down in
writing and brought up to date in 1206. The following
list of works is compiled from Orkneyinga Saga, unless
where otherwise stated : Fundinn Noregr, mythical.
Jarla-sogur, made up of what must have been separate
sagas of individual earls. Ro'gnvaldsdrdpa, and
Porfinnsdrdpa, by Arnorr jarlaskald (partly in saga
1 Scot. Hist. Rev. IX., 148. 2 The Home of the Eddie Poems, London, 1899.
Gudbrand Vigfiisson was the first to suggest tha.t the Jays were
composed in the British Isles.
216 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
and partly in Snorra Edda), written in 1046-1064.'
f>dttr Magnuss jarls. Hdkon Pdlssons drdpa, men-
tioned. Visur about Hakon Palsson and Magnus
Erlendsson, mentioned. Pdttr Pals jarls. Jarteina bok.
Pdttr Rognvalds jarls, which may also be called Sveins
saga. Hdttalykill, by earl Rognvald, mentioned,
but preserved in Stockholm. Jomsvikingadrdpa
and Mdlshdttakvcefti, by bishop Biarni, not men-
tioned in the saga, but preserved in Codex Regius of
Snorra Edda (see Corpus Poeticum Boreale). Magnuss
saga helga or Magnuss saga eyja-jarls : (i) Magnuss
saga hin lengri, (2) Magnuss saga hin skamma, (3)
Legenda de sancto Magno (six pieces).
The difference between Icelandic and Orkney saga is
that the former describes personal and family feuds and
litigations, whereas the latter is almost solely concerned
with genuine viking life. Iceland was too detached for
viking cruises, but Orkney was an ideal striking point
for sea-rovers. As a matter of fact the best saga of
the Orkney collection is that which treats of Svein of
Gairsey, the last of the vikings. He kept a bodyguard
of eighty huskarlar. Each year, after seed time, he
went on a vdr, spring, viking, and then returned for
harvest, after which he went on a haust, autumn,
viking, and returned home to spend the winter on his
spoils. On one occasion he captured two English keels
off Dublin, laden with English cloth. On his return
journey he sewed some of the captured cloth on his
sails, so that they appeared as though they were
entirely made of that material, and hence this viking
was called skruftviking ; skruft is used in old Norse for
finery, and, in this instance, has been translated
broadcloth by sir George Dasent, but, in accordance
with Fritzner, it should be, pragtfuldt vikingetog,
gorgeous viking expedition. 2 As an instance of
1 Arnorr was an Icelander, resident in Orkney, where he composed
these poems on the two earls, and hence he was nicknamed jarlaskald.
2 In Goudie's translation of the saga this meaning has also been
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 217
Svein's fine feeling and generosity may be men-
tioned the capture of earl Rognvald's ships by earl
Erlend and Svein, when Svein claimed, as his share
of the spoil, all earl Rognvald's treasures, which he
straightway sent back to earl Rognvald. Earl Rogn-
vald had only just returned from his famous pilgrimage
to the Holy Land. He afterwards became one of earl
Rognvald's hirtimenn or bodyguard, and in the end
fell, ambushed, in his last viking, in Ireland. The saga
fittingly ends with the following tribute to Svein :
"There now is an end of telling about Svein; and it
is the talk of men that he hath been the greatest man
in the western lands, both of yore and now-a-days, of
those men who had no higher rank 1 than he." Svein
set the splendid example of continuing one's life work
to the end in harness.
At the time of the conclusion of the Orkney saga,
circa 1206, the male line of the Norse earls, already
half Scottish, came to an end, having lasted only some
three centuries; and was succeeded, in the female line,
by four lines of Scottish earls, the Athole, Angus,
Strathearn and St. Clair families, 1206-1470.
The Norwegian crown passed through a female to a
Swedish line of kings, which reigned from 1319 to
1387 ; and then, after the treaty of Kalmar, when Nor-
way, Denmark and Sweden were united in one king-
dom, the crown passed to a Danish line, which was
reigning in 1468-9, when Orkney and Shetland were
wadset or pawned to Scotland, in security for the dowry
of the queen of king James III. of Scotland.
The succession of the Scottish earls in the thirteenth
century, and of the Swedish and Danish kings in the
fourteenth century, with their foreign influence, must
account for the complete break in the insular literature,
which was thereafter confined to complaints about Scot-
tish and other interference in insular affairs.
1 ON. tignar-jiafu, name and rank which raised one above the common
218 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
The residence of the crown in Denmark, with the
influx of Danish officials and place-men in Norway,
very quickly established the Danish language in Nor-
way, so that, by 1450, Norwegian as a national
language came to an end, 1 and, circa 1530, the Nor-
wegian laws had to be translated into Danish. In
Norway this resulted in the complete disappearance of
Norwegian literature, which is only represented by
After the transference of Orkney and Shetland to
vScotland, in 1468-9, the Scottish crown acquired the
earldom (i.e., the earl's rule, title, the public revenues
and the earldom landed estate), from the last Norse earl,
William St. Clair, and thereafter appointed its own
Scottish rulers. In 1472, the bishopric of Orkney and
Shetland was transferred, by Papal bull, from the
metropolitan see of Trondhjem to the newly created
metropolitan see of St. Andrews in Scotland. In 1486,
Kirkwall was erected into a Scottish royal burgh. In
1490, the bishopric was erected into a Scottish regality,
with Scottish civil courts and officers. In 1602, we have
the last mention of a judicial reference to the Norse
law-book of the islands, 2 since when Scottish law has
The succession of the Scottish earls, with their Scot-
tish kin and retainers, transformed the islands into a
sanctuary for Scottish fugitives and adventurers.
Scottish fashions, habits and language soon took a hold
on Orkney, the seat of government, which was also
nearer to Scotland than Shetland was.
The latest known Norse charter in Orkney is dated
1329," and the latest Norse document circa 14.26,* a
1 Norges Historic, IV.
2 Mackenzie's Grievances of 0. and S., 6-7.
8 D.N., ii., 144.
*D.N., ii., 514. But this cannot be the Orkney dialect of the
period, as its vocabulary is mixed, and probably represents a sort
of court or chancery language for the three kingdoms of the Union.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 219
complaint to the king of Denmark against a Scotsman
who was then ruler of the islands. In Shetland, Norse
charters occur as late as the seventeenth century, and
towards the end of the sixteenth century it is related
that a Shetland clergyman went to Norway to learn
[or rather to perfect himself in] Norwegian, as the
Shetlanders knew no other language, and he so
acquired the nickname of " Norsk." We have
Orkney charters in Scottish in 1433 2 and after, and
m 1438 the lawman of Orkney gave his testimony in
If the insular literature is mainly confined to com-
plaints during the rule of the Scoto-Norse earls, it is
still more so after the transference of the islands to
Scotland, when the position became one of " out of the
frying pan into the fire." This was accentuated by the
strenuous efforts, made by the Scottish government, to
render the redemption of the islands by Norway as
difficult as possible. The outstanding document in the
literature of this period is the report of the royal com-
mission, appointed in 1576, to take evidence regarding
the alleged oppressions of the Scottish ruler, lord
Robert Stewart, 1 an illegitimate son of king James V.
He was, however, afterwards made earl of Orkney,
contrary to the act of Scottish parliament, by which the
title of earl of Orkney was annexed to the crown, not
to be conferred on anyone but a legitimate son of the
The survival of Norse words and legal terms in
Orkney deeds indicates a state of corruption which
renders some of them almost unrecognisable.
Norse, as the language of the earl's court in Orkney,
probably terminated with the succession of the St.
Clair line in 1379, if not already with the termination
of the Angus line in 1320, as the last known Norse deed
in Orkney, in 1329,* is that of the countess of the last
1 Fasti Ecclesia Scoticana, iii., 441. 2 O. S. R., I., 246. 3 ib. 44.
*Opp. O.Z. 4 D.N., ii., 144.
22o Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
earl of that line. As a dialect Norse, called Norn, con-
tinued in corners of the islands until the eighteenth
One unfortunate result of the change of language
from Norse to Scottish has been the extinction of Norse
ballad and music, one going with the other. A few
relics have been preserved, and it has been noted that
the " Arrow Lay," Gray's " Fatal Sisters," was recited
in Norse in Orkney as late as the eighteenth century. 1
Norse dialect words survive by the thousand. Dr.
Jakob Jakobsen has made a large collection of Shetland
words, and is now engaged in rescuing what survive
in Orkney ; after which he will extend his researches to
Orkney and Shetland literature of the Scottish period
began in the seventeenth century, with topographical
and historical descriptions of the islands. From that
time to this, with perhaps one or two exceptions, the
names of all the authors are of outland origin. The
study of records began in the eighteenth century, when
the landowners, with an eye to business, attempted to
have some of their grievances remedied, and the work
of hunting up and elucidating the records was done by
mr. A. Mackenzie. 2 In 1820, mr. Alexander Peterkin
edited a volume of rentals of the earldom and bishopric
of Orkney. Amongst the names of subsequent editors
of records may be mentioned those of colonel David
Balfour, of Balfour, mr. George Petrie, mr. Gilbert
Goudie, mr. F. J. Grant, and the venerable archdeacon
J. B. Craven. The most important collection of docu-
ments is that contained in Diphmatarium Norvegicum.
It now remains to fill in a few details of the foregoing
very brief historical outline. At the most we can only
indicate the uncertainties which remain to be cleared up
when the necessary documents are found.
1 Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1837, iii., 190.
2 Mackenzie's Grievances of O. and S.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 221
The original colonisation of Orkney and Shetland
may have been effected in the same way as it was later
in Iceland. Chiefs and their followers would peg
out their claims as they arrived. The word herafi,
district, still survives in Orkney and Shetland. In
Orkney it occurs in the name of a defined district,
Byrgisheraft. This place is now divided into two
parishes, Birsa and Harra, the latter was called Hurray
Brugh, and also Brugh, in 1500.' The O.N. term
byrgi, an entrenchment or mound, may have been
applied to this heraft, or district, on account of the
exceptional number of mounds, covering the founda-
tions of Pictish round towers, which are to be found in
Harra ; or the name of the heraft may have been taken
from a possible name of the tidal island, now called the
Brough of Birsa, *Byrgisey (which may be repre-
sented by the modern name Birsa), and probably
so-called on account of its mound-like appearance.
The original }>inghdr, ^ing-districts, into which the
islands were divided, would each be probably of the
size of ByrgisheraS. The colonists must have settled
on the enclosed townships of the Picts, 2 whose chapels
would have been utilised as hof, temples. That the
Picts became thralls of the Norse seems probable.
Dr. Jakobsen calls attention to the Shetland word
tralfangi-nn (O.N. *}>rcel-fangi), applied to a short,
square-built person, as suggestive of the aboriginal
race who became thralls.
The original colony in Orkney was augmented by
the discontented chiefs and their followers, when
Harald harfagri formed the united kingdom of Norway.
When Harald conquered Orkney and Shetland, in 872,
he drove out the leading vikings, who had been making
reprisals on Norway, and of course would have confis-
cated their landed estates as well as those of other chiefs
ip.R. No. i.
2 For a description of these, see Proceeds. S.A. Scot., 1884, 254.
222 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
in the islands. These estates would form the len * or
fief of the earl. It is notable that the earl's landed estate
lay scattered throughout the islands, which appears to
confirm the above conjecture that the forfeited estates
of the Orkney vikings formed the earldom estate ; these
were in Birsa, Orphir, Kirkwall, Burrey, South
Ronaldsey, Hoy, Westrey, Sandey and Stronsey.
This supposition is strengthened by the fact that the
earldom estate included a great part of the north isles,
which would have been ideal viking stations.
Each )>ingha would have had its hof, temple, for
which a Pictish church would have done service. When
Christianity was adopted, the jnngha would become the
parish, and its hof the parish church. With the excep-
tion of ByrgisheraS, there is no indication in the saga
of the districts into which the islands were divided.
That the parochial J?ing was the unit of government in
the islands appears to be proved by the termination
lp ing in the names of a number of Shetland parishes,
e.g., Delting, Sandsting, etc., some of which are
mentioned as early as 1321-1355. 2
CHURCH HISTORY: KRISTNI SAGA.
The ecclesiastical history of Orkney and Shetland is
The Pictish church would of course be under lona.
Adam of Bremen (1067-1076) stated that Orkney was
formerly ruled by bishops appointed by the Scots
(lona) and English (York). In 605, Pope Gregory
wrote to St. Augustine that, after the latter's death,
there should be two primates of England, one in
London and one in York. It was maintained by the
archbishop of Canterbury, in 1119, that " Britanniae,"
1 Borrowed from mid. low German, or more probably O.E. lizn, a
lease, to account for the early use of the word, the feudal system in
Norway being of foreign origin. The true O.N., /<z, has the
simpler meaning ' loan.'
''D.N., ix., no; iii., 234.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 223
in Gregory's letter, included Scotland and Ireland.
Meanwhile Orkney was colonised by the Norse, 664-872.
In 822, Rheims was made metropolitan of the North,
and in 831, Bremen was made metropolitan of the three
Scandinavian kingdoms l ; but there were no Christians
in Norway. In 934, Hakon (son of king Harald
harfagri and fosterson of Athelstan of England, by
whom he was converted) vainly attempted to Chris-
tianise Norway. He asked for bishops from England.
In 961, king Harald grafeldr, who had been baptised
in England, succeeded to the Norwegian throne. In
995, king Olaf Tryggvason, who had been converted in
England, formally introduced Christianity into Nor-
way and Orkney and Shetland, assisted by English
bishops and priests. Henry, called "the fat" (the
treasurer of Knut, king of England, 1014, 1016-1035,
and of Norway 1028-1035), was appointed bishop of
Orkney, probably by York, when Knut was king of
Norway, 1028-1035. Knut appointed one other Nor-
The early Christian kings of Norway repudiated
Bremen as their metropolitan, and looked to England
for bishops. It was only during the early part of the
reign of Knut, when he claimed Norway, that Norway
turned to Bremen rather than England.
In 1050-56, Bremen appointed a bishop of Orkney,
probably at the request of I>orrinn, the earl who built
the first cathedral in Orkney, after he had visited
Bremen and Rome. This bishop was ousted, in 1085.,
by a bishop who had been appointed by York in 1073.
The latter York bishop had been probably appointed
on the strength of the Papal bull which assigned the
primacy of Scotland to York in 1072. After this we
have double bishops of Orkney, appointed by Bremen
and York. These double bishops were probably run
by the rival earls, each having his own prelate. The
Pope upheld the York bishops. The dispute was finally
1 D.N., xvii. B, 177, 178.
224 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
settled in 1152, when Nidaros, now Trondhjem, was
made the metropolitan see of Norway, including Ork-
ney. Hitherto the bishops had been missionary bishops
without chapters, whereas now they were assigned
cathedrals, with properly constituted chapters. Bishop
William, the old, of Orkney (who would have been
appointed by Bremen if his appointment took place
in 1 102, or by Lund, which was made metropolitan of
Norway in 1104, if, as is thought by some, his appoint-
ment took place in 1112), was the sole bishop in pos-
session when Nidaros was made metropolitan of
Orkney. During his episcopate the cathedral was
transferred from Birsa to Kirkwall. As bishop
William was the first constitutional bishop of Orkney
with a chapter, he is accordingly described in the saga
as " the first bishop of Orkney." In 1472, the bishopric
of Orkney was transferred from the see of Trondhjem
to the newly erected metropolitan see of St. Andrews
Another cause of confusion arose during the greac
Papal schism in 1378-1429, when double bishops of
Orkney were appointed by the Popes and anti-Popes.
Norway, which was in possession of Orkney, acknow-
ledged the Papal bishops, so that they were alone in
actual possession of the bishopric. Scotland, which
acknowledged the anti-Popes until 1417, had certain
Scottish clergy appointed as titular bishops of Orkney,
but they had permission to retain their Scottish livings,
in which they resided.
The payment of tithe, tiund, was probably imposed
on Orkney and Shetland early in the twelfth century,
at the same time as it was laid on Norway, by king
SigurS jorsalafari (Jerusalem-farer or crusader), who
had been earl of Orkney until his father's death
The bishop and his retinue exercised great influence
in the islands. The nature of the civil jurisdiction of
the church over the clergy and over the occupiers of
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 225
church lands remains to be more fully explained.
We are informed, in 1369,' that the bishop had juris-
diction of holy church, lay and learned, without let or
hindrance from the earl's and king's representatives.
In 1490, the Scottish government erected the bishopric
into a regality, with civil courts and officers of its own,
having civil jurisdiction over all occupiers of church
land, 2 which probably merely confirmed the powers
previously exercised by the bishop under the Nor-
The early oral laws of Norway were recited by the
law-speaker. On the foundation of Norw r ay, as a united
kingdom, by Harald harfagri, in 872, new laws were
framed. Further new laws were framed by king Hakon
hinn goSi (the good), 935-961, and by king Olaf hinn
helgi (the holy), 1015-1030, including church and canon
law. During the reign of king Magnus hinn goSi (the
good), 1035-1047, " St. Olaf's Law " was taken down
in writing in Grdgds (Greygoose), a record which is
now lost. Old Gulathing Law was taken down about
iioo, and New Gulathing Law was adopted in 1275,
while various amendments and ordinances were effected
Undoubtedly the Orkney vikings took their Nor-
wegian oral laws, log, and law-speaker, logsogumaftr,
with them to the islands. In the period from the
colonisation down till the enactment of New Gulathing
Law, in 1275, the islands may have exercised a measure
of legislative independence ; although it is hard to
believe that at the foundation of the earldom, in 872,
Harald did not have his new laws adopted there also.
Likewise the new Christian laws of St. Olaf must also
have been adopted in the islands.
Although the Norwegian parliament, logging, had
legislative power, such power was mainly confined to
the adoption of new laws and amendments, framed and
iD.N., I., 308. a P.R.,App.
226 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
proposed by the king or his council a nominal power,
not unlike in nature to that possessed to-day by
cathedral chapters in the election of bishops, in which
there is no alternative but to elect the king's nominee,
notwithstanding the conge d'elire.
The references in the saga to legislation in Orkney
are as follows. It is related, in 1048, that earl J>orfinn
turned his mind to ruling the people and land and to
law-giving : a laga-setning. This was shortly after the
compilation of Grdgds, 1035-1047, and may merely refer
to the amendments introduced at that time, if not to
the written code itself, which may have been transmitted
to the earl of Orkney for adoption by his lawthing. In
1116, earl Hakon set up new laws (setti ny log) in Ork-
ney, which pleased the bcendr better than those which
had been before (ao>). This, again, coincides with the
recording of Old Gulathing Law, circa iioo, which
may have been sent to Orkney for adoption.
In 1137, in order to raise money for the completion
of St. Magnus' cathedral, earl Rognvald was advised
/cera log a, to bring up [for consideration, with the
ostensive object of amelioration], an existing law which
was felt to be rather hard, viz., that law by which the
earls had hitherto inherited all 6Sul after all bcendr
[generation after generation], so that the heirs of these
bcendr had [either (i)] to redeem these 65ul [generation
after generation], in order to regain possession of their
ancestral 6Sul, [or otherwise (2) to continue in occupa-
tion of these 6'Sul as hereditary tenants, involving the
payment of land rent to the earls]. Then the earl called
a )>ing and offered the bcendr to allow them to buy,
kaupa, their 6Sul, so that there would be no need to,
redeem, leysa them, thereafter, which was agreed to. 1
1 The translation of Orkn. renders fcera log d : bring in a law,
whereas it should be bring uf an existing law (see Fritzner s.v.,
fcera, med praep. a). This clearly explains this, hitherto obscure
passage. The ' existing law ' must refer to that by which earl Torf-
Einar acquired the 6Sul in 895 (see ante], which 6Sul remained;
unredeemed, in the possession of the earls until 995, when earl
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 227
A mark had to be paid for every ploughland. As a
plogsland is estimated by Vigfusson at one acre, and
in Snorra Edda as equivalent to what four oxen could
plough in a day and night, and as a markland in Ork-
ney averages a little more than an acre, 1 it has been
suggested that this may have been the origin of this
land denomination. 2 Did the Shetlanders also have ro
buy their 65ul ?
Sigurd digri gaf upp Orkneyingum oftul sin : gave u-p to the
Orkneyingar their of>ul; which gift would thus only have been for
one generation, after which the 6Sul would again revert to the earls.
During the whole cf the period, 895-995 5 (during which the 6Sul
remained unredeemed in the hands of the earls) the bcendr, as
hereditary tenants, must have paid rent to the earls. King Olaf
Tryggvason's account of the transaction was that king Harald
harfagri took as his own all the lands in Orkney and Shetland in
consequence of the slaughter of his son, and that earl Torf-Einar
paid the king sixty gold marks [as the redemption price of the lands],
and so acquired all these lands [the d5ul in Orkney and Shetland ;
the Orkney saga is explicit in only mentioning the 6Sul in Orkney
as having been acquired by the earl] which he held as a fief from
1 Proceed., S. A. Scot, 1884, 274.
- If the mark of land in the Hebrides is of the same origin as that
in Orkney and Shetland, it would appear to make the above supposition
improbable. Moreover, a ploughland was of uniform area, whereas the
mark of land, representing its purchase value, varied considerably in
extent. Fritzner explains O.N. plogsland : arable land On the
basis of the eyrisland rent-valuation (see infra, Taxation), % eyris-
land ( 6 pennylands= i * ertogland) X 24 years' purchase = i
mark. Was eyrisland the plogsland of the saga? It has been
calculated that the pennyland in Orkney contains from 4 to 13 acres
(Proceed. S. A. Scot., 1884. 277), so that J eyrisland, or 6 penny-
lands, would contain from 24 to 78 acres. Can the plogsland of
Flateyjarbok (in which this part of Orkn. is alone preserved) be an
extension of a possible contraction pgsland, in the original, for
* peningsland? a term, ' pennyland,' only known in Orkney and
the west with which the Flateyjarbok copyist would have been un-
familiar, while pgsland would also be the contracted form of
plogsland. If a mark had been paid for a pennyland ( T ' s eyris-
land), the price of an eyrisland would have been 18
marks, as against 3 marks, the redemption price of an
eyrisland at 24 years' purchase. In the silver valuation of Orkney
the pennyland was valued at from i to 12 and more marks,
228 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
During the union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden,
1389-1523, New Gulathing Law, together with subse-
quent amendments of the thirteenth and fourteenth cen-
turies, were the principal source of law, viz., " St.
Olaf's law and the good old customs," which the kings
swore to maintain in Norway. 1
That the Orkney and Shetland law-book, I'dg-bok,
was an edition of New Gulathing Law seems clear from
the following references. In 1420 the feoffee, lensmaftr,
of the earldom undertook to rule Orkney according to
the Norwegian law-book and old customs. 2 In 1425
the Orkneyingers petitioned the crown to uphold king
Olaf's law and subsequent ordinances, 3 precisely as in
the royal oath above quoted. In 1538, a district court,
rettr, in Shetland gave its decision in accordance with
Gulathing Law, which decision was attested as sound
by the king's council in Bergen. 4 While in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was the tradition
in the islands that their laws were received from St.
6laf. 5 One Scottish bishop was so at sea in the matter
that he explained that one Udillaus was sent by the
king of Norway to divide the land in Orkney into
pennylands, hence udal land. 6 He had turned Ulaus
so that one mark, for the outright purchase of a pennyland, in
1137, would not have been exorbitant as compared with the possible
recurrent redemption price of mark (i.e., ^ eyrir X 24 years'
purchase = ij eyrir mark). The redemption price would
undoubtedly have been maintained on the basis of the eyrisland
valuation in 895, when the lands were acquired by the earl; but,
possibly at a nominal and less rate than 24 years' purchase, as other-
wise each bdndi would have paid back the fine every time a suc-
cessive generation redeemed the land, and if i mark was paid for
each pennyland in 1137, the earl would have received back six
times more than the sum for which it was originally acquired in
J Ud. N.H., i., 69. 2 D.N., ii., 489. S D.N., vi., 449.
4 O.S.R. I., 70.
5 Gifford's Zetland (reprint), 47, 48; Brand's Description (reprint),
41; Hibbert's Shetland, 193, 275; Sibbald's Description, 81.
' P.R. No. iii., 18, 20.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 229
into Udillaus, by way of folk-etymology. Moreover,
the little we do know of insular law corresponds
with New Gulathing Law, e.g., (i) the daughter
only inherited half as much as a son, whereas by Old
G.L. she inherited nothing; (2) the eldest son had the
first choice of the head house, whereas Old G.L. has
no ordinance on the subject.
The old customs, forn or gdmul sifivenja, or consue-
tudinary law, referred to in the royal oath, would
include immemorial rights of foreshore, common pas-
turage, etc. ; and in certain cases fishing rights, which,
in some cases flowed from royal grants ; these were the
emoluments, lunnendi, of 6Sal deeds.
LEGISLATURE, LAWS, LAW COURT:
PING (afterwards LOGGING), LOG, LOGRETTA
The original Norwegian J>ing appears to have been
a primary assembly of freeholders, oftalsmenn or haul-
dar. By the time of Old Gulathing Law the general
assembly was called the law-thing, logging, and con-
sisted of paid representatives from the various districts,
nominated by the king's deputies; the king was repre-
sented by his deputies, lendirmenn and drmenn, barons
and stewards, and the church by the bishops and priests.
In 1164, the compulsory presence of the priests was
limited to two from each fylki, who were nominated by
their bishops. The representative system arose from
the enlargement of the ]>ing-districts and the growth of
the royal power.
From among these nominated men the king's depu-
ties nominated a smaller selection, called the 16gre"tta,
which inquired into and arranged the cases before the
decision of the j'ing was given. These 16gre"ttumenn
were also representative of districts, and were paid.
It will thus be apparent that the Norwegian parlia-
ment of historic times was, like the contemporary Saxon
230 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
assembly, 1 purely a body of royal nominees and
churchmen without a vestige of democratic election.
There is not the slightest indication that the earl of
Orkney had, like the earls in Norway, lendirmenn,
under him, ruling the islands. The only appear-
ance in the saga of a local j>ing is a laun-fying, or
secret meeting, held in Westrey. We can only assume
that the earldom was, as in Norway, divided into
districts with district assemblies, the predecessors of the
bailie courts. In Shetland we find notices of parish
courts and officials and also of a "varding," varying a
spring court. 2
From .evidence given below it will be seen that the
Orkney lawthing remained a primary assembly.
The representative nature of the persons serving in the
Orkney logretta has been shown by mr. J. Storer
Clouston in the Saga-Book, VII., 100.
The references in the saga to the J>ing and laws are
as follows. In the ninth century a fine was exacted
from the whole community for the slaughter of the
king's son at the instigation of the earl ; land was held
in 65al, with the right of redeeming alienated 6Sal. In
the eleventh century earl Einar rangmunnr held J>ing
in spring with the bcendr; earl Einar's slaughter was
atoned for as for three lendirmenn, and his third part
of the earldom was confiscated by the king of Norway,
for the- slaughter of the king's hirSmaSr, Eyvind lirar-
horn, and afterwards given in len to one of the
other two earls. In 1106, earl Hakon killed the
king's syslumaftr, steward, who was looking after
Magnus' share of the earldom. In in6, the two ruling
earls met at the J?ingsta5r in Hrossey (Mainland), and
1 The National Assembly in the Anglo-Saxon Period, by Professor F.
Liebermann, pp. 38 seqq.
- Opp. O.Z., 71. A varying was held in Jamtland in 1463 (D.N.,
iii., 627) Hitherto the Shetland ' varding ' has been explained as
varS-))ing, but there is no such term on record, and a 'beacon-
assembly' is not probable. Logging > logging in Shetland and
elsewhere (D.N., i., 81 and N.G.L.), hence : varying > varying >
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 231
came to terms and bound their agreement with oaths
and handsal. Earl St. Magnus stated that it was siftr
ok log, custom and law, of men of old that the execu-
tioner should have the clothes of the person executed.
In 1128, earl Pal is described as a man of few words,
and no speaker at the J'ing. In 1137, Svein was out-
lawed and his estates forfeited for the slaughter of the
earl's hirftmaftr, one of his bodyguard; a launfying, a
secret J'ing, was held in West rev ; a J'ing was held in
Hrossey (Mainland) at which there were present rikis-
menn, mighty men, bcendr, njosnar, spies, and a skald ;
earl Rognvald constantly held J'ing with the bcendr,
because he had to do with mighty men, stormenn, who
were against him; he held one J'ing in Kirkwall.
In 1151, earl Rognvald called a full .J'ing in spring,
in Hrossey, which was attended by all the hoffiingjar,
chiefs. In 1152, earl Erlend and Svein summoned a
J'ing of the bcendr in Kirkwall, to w r hich they came
from all the isles ; at this J>ing the king's brief was read,
which gave earl Erlend earl Harald's half of the earl-
dom, to which the bcendr promised obedience. Harald
had got his half of the earldom from Rognvald by
private arrangement and not as a len, fief, from the
king. In 1154, eai "l Rognvald held a hushing (a house-
thing, summoned by a trumpet, in cases of emergency ;
a war council), regarding the invasion by earl Erlend
and Svein. A sdtiar-ftmdr, peace meeting, was held
between Svein and the earls, at which it was agreed
that Svein should make peace by the payment of a mark
of gold to each of the two earls, lose half of his lands
and his good longship. In 1155, another sattarfundr
was held in St. Magnus' cathedral, in which had been
stored the sail of Svein 's forfeited longship, and at
which earl Rognvald attended with a broad-axe. 1
1 In accordance with old Gulajnngslog, a breiftox was one of the weapons
which had to be borne in a levy by each armaSr and lendrmaftr breiftox
or sverS (sword), sf>jbt (spear) and skjoldr (shield) while each bondi had
to be provided with tvennar tylftit orva ok bogi einn, two-twelves, i.e., 24,
arrows and one bow.
232 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
In 1194, Shetland was forfeited to Norway (skat tr and
skyld public taxes and the rents of the earldom landed
estate), for the part the earl had in the rebellion against
king Sverrir. The estates in Orkney and Shetland of
the rebels who fell at Floruvoe were also forfeited, but
were redeemable, within three years, by their kinsmen.
Shetland was taken under the king's own control, as
well as one-half of all the fines in Orkney. After this
the foguti the king's bailiff, was appointed to Shetland. 1
From the foregoing references we find that as late
as 1152, a )>ing of the bcendr was held in Orkney, lo
which they came from all the isles ; a primary
assembly, which would have had its logretta. This
was fifty years after the recording of Old Gulathing
Law in Norway, where the lawthing of Gulathing was
attended by nominated and paid delegates. As Orkney
was such a comparatively small place it seems unlikely
that provision would have been made for the appoint-
ment and payment of delegates, so that the assembly
would remain primary.
During 1273-1299 Shetland was in the appanage of
duke Hakon, who became king in the latter year.
The next notice we have is of a logging in Shetland
in I299 2 (twenty-four years after the adoption of New
Gulathing Law), which was attended by the logSingis-
menn. In 1307, the lawman, eleven men and all the
logrettumenn of Shetland held a court [logretta of the
logging ?] at Tingwall, at which the decision was given
by the lawman, with the special advice, rdS, and con-
sent of handgengnirmenn [the eleven ?] and logrettu-
menn. 3 The handgengnirmenn may have been in the
service of the king or the lawman, as underfouds.
In 1379, Shetland was restored to the earl of Orkney.
It has not yet been shown on what terms Shetland was
handed back. In 1386, the king's steward, drottseti,
awarded certain lands in Shetland to the rightful
1 Sverr. S., 156, 157; Orkn., 231, 235.
2 D.N., I., 81. 3 D.N., I., 97.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 233
owners, as they had been illegally taken possession of
by Malis Sperra. 1
The earl of Orkney died in 1404, and the next earl,
his grandson, was invested in 1434. During this inter-
regnum the earldom of Orkney and lordship of Shet-
land were given out in len, fief, to various persons. In
a grant of a part of Shetland, north of Mawed, in 1412,
the grantee received skatt, landskyld and wesel (wattle,
O.N. veizla, entertainment), with all royal right except
}>egngildi, weregild of a }>egn, thane or freeman, and
friftkaup, the price at which peace had to be bought
from the king by one outlawed for manslaughter. 2
In 1433, the burgesses of Kirkwall had to observe the
statute of the country. 3 In the last len of the earldom
in I434, 4 the earl, as in the len of 1379, had to
serve the king with one hundred men-at-arms out of
Orkney, and had to be answerable for his faults to the
king and council, in accordance with the law of
The first notice we have of an assembly [logretta of
the lawthing ?] in Orkney since sagatime, is of one held
before 1438 (either in 1434-1438 or 1404 or before), in
the vestry of St. Magnus' cathedral, consisting of
sundry goodmen of the country. 5 Before 1438 (1434-
1438 or 1404 or earlier), a hirSmannastefna was held by
the earl and the ' gentles ' of the country regarding a
land dispute which had been debated in the above-
mentioned meeting [logretta of the lawthing], and
which had been reported to the hirfimannastefna, meet-
ing of the earl's bodyguard.
Orkney was wadset by Norway to Scotland in 1468,
in the following terms :
Damus, concedimus, impignoramus ac sub firma
hypotheca et pignore imponimus atque hypothecamus
omnes et singulas terras nostras insularum Orcaden-
sium cum omnibus et singulis juribus, serviciis ac
iD.N., I., 366. 2 D.N., II., 466. O.S.R., I., 246.
'N.G.L. (anden raekke), 137. 5 O.S.R., I.. 45.
234 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
justis suis pertinentiis nobis regali jure . . . tenendas
et habendas totas et integras terras nostras insularum
Orcadensium pr?edictarum unacum omnibus et
singulis custumis, profiscuis, libertatibus, commodit-
atibus ac aliis justis suis pertinentiis, quibuscunque,
tarn nominatis quam innominatis. etc. 1
Give, grant, wadset, and under strict hypothec and
pledge do set and hypothecate all and sundry our
lands of the islands of Orkney, with all and sundry
rights, services, and their just pertinents, belonging
to us by royal right . . . to hold and to have all and
whole our lands of the islands of Orkney aforesaid,
together with all and sundry customs, profits, free-
doms, commodities and their other just pertinents
whatsoever, as well named as not named.
The wadset was redeemable on the payment of the
principal sum of 50,000 Rhenish florins (,20,833,
Opp. O.Z., xii.), by the king of Norway or his suc-
cessors. Shetland was wadset in the following year
for 8,000 florins (Hvitfeldt, 921).
The hirSmannastefna, which was held by the earl
before 1438, consisted of his hirft or bodyguard, who
were appropriately described as the ' gentles ' of the
country. We have notice of a hirSmannastefna held
by lord Robert Stewart in 1574, when it is described as
a ' sheriffcourt called the hermanstein,' and at which
lands were escheated for theft. This latter court
consisted of twenty-seven members, including some
Shetland landowners. Lord Robert Stewart attempted
to revive all the prerogatives of the old Norse regime,
and naturally would wish to have his hirft or body-
guard, which actually included some Shetlanders, and
was therefore not an exclusively Orkney court.
Lord Robert Stewart alleged " himself to be as free
lord and heritor of Orkney and Zetland as the king of
P.R. app. ; Torfseus' Orcades (1697), 195.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 235
Scotland is in his own realm, or the queen of England,
or the king of France in France, and makes his vante,
that in case he be put at by the king's majesty's autho-
rity, to give the haill countrys into the king of
After 1468, we have the following notices of the
lawthing in Orkney and Shetland.
In 1510, a court [logretta of the lawthing] was
held at Tingwall, which carried out the decree
of the [logretta of the] lawthing of Orkney ; the
lawman at this time being lawman of both Orkney
and Shetland. 2 In 1538, a rettr, (district) court, was
held in Shetland by the lawman, local lawrightmen,
logrettumenn, and other good men, whose verdict was
afterwards certified as correct by the king's court
in Bergen. 3 In 1576, it was reported to the royal
commission, who were taking evidence as to lord
Robert Stewart's oppressions in the islands, that the
lawthing of Shetland was the head court of the county
in which the assize [i.e., logretta] gave decreets and the
members of the law r thing were all persons having land,
heritage and great taks, leases, from the king. 4 The
court book of Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney, 1602-
1604,* gives a detailed account of the circuit and head
courts in Shetland. In 1538, a lawman of Shetland
was appointed by Norway. 6 There can be little doubt
that Norway used every opportunity of keeping alive
her right of redeeming the islands, by making con-
current appointments to those made by Scotland and
by encouraging insular references to the Norwegian
The exact relationship between the insular and
Norwegian king's council and law courts has to be
cleared up. As has also been shown, the earl of
Orkney was answerable to the king's council in Norway.
'Opp. O.Z., 5. 2 O.S.R., I., 60. 'Ibid, 73. 4 Opp. O.Z., 44, 58.
5 Peterkin's Notes, app. Original MS. in the Register House, Edin-
burgh. 6 Norske Rigsregistranter, I., 57.
236 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
In Orkney, in 1509 and after, we have notices of
several " ogangs, " district courts, 1 held by the lawman,
the justice and the worthiest and best of the land,
" landedmen roythmen," or " roythmen and royth-
men's sons"; the lawman gave the decree with the
advice of the " doomsmen " and, in one instance sealed
the decreet on behalf of the "roythmen." The lawthing
was held in 1509 and after, the members of the court
being described as above. After 1519, the members of
the lawthing court, logretta, are merely described as the
"assize," as they were later on in Shetland.
With regard to the terms " roythmen " and " royth-
men's sons," the terms " royth " and " roythman "
were used in Orkney, in I544 2 and after, as meaning
the right of redeeming oo'al, and the person who had
that right. 3 This is undoubtedly derived from O.N.
rd5, rule, management, the. raS which the oSalsmenn
exercised in alienating, as well as in redeeming,
their 65ul. The same meaning must be attached to
the roythmen as members of the logretta of the
lawthing, viz., a class of persons who were
eligible for nomination as members of the logretta
or lawthing court, in virtue of their being 65albornir.
The obvious explanation is that the members of
the lawthing court or assize, logretta, were chosen
from, the landed men, roythmen and their sons, 4
which was their property qualification ; whereas their
character qualification consisted in their being the
worthiest, best, and good men. They had to be honest
and respectable landowners or persons having the rdS
or right to alienated estates, and their sons, who were
oSalbornir. There is no indication that the term
roythman was borrowed from the designation radman
or raadman, O.N. rdSraaSr, used for a member of the
konungs rd5, king's council, or the boejar rdS, town
'O.S.R., I., 251. 2 Reg. Gt. Seal, Scot.
O.S.R., I., 259. "O.S.R., I., 254.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 237
council of Bergen. 1 If such a use of the word had been
copied from Norway, one would have expected Shet-
land to have also done so, considering its closer con-
nexion with the mother country. It would be a
contradiction in terms and an absurdity to require that
one must be a councillor in order to be eligible for
election as a councillor. Orkney may have been under
bjarkeyarrettr, town law, and Kirkwall may have had
a b 02 jar raS, town council, of which the rdfimenn, town
councillors, were represented in the lawthing and its
logretta. But this would not explain the " roythman's
son " designation. Technically the term roythmen
was applicable to all 65alsmenn, and we find their sons
on the assize, designated as ' younger.' 2
The occurrence of the term lawrightman, Ibgrettu-
maftr, in Orkney, puts rdSmaSr, councillor, out of
court. There is one instance of the " landedmen and
roythmen," in an assize, being described as "at that
time," a term applied to officials, whereas the term
" present at that time " was applied to unofficial per-
sons. This instance occurs in a bungled docket on the
back of a doom of the assize of the lawthing in 1516 :
" The dome of the best landit men in [deleted] and
royhtmen in Orkna at that ty [deleted] tyme " ; in
which doom it is stated that the doom was dempt before
the " justice of Orkney for the time." by 20 " worthy
persons " (some of whom were " younger "), who col-
lectively, as "doomsmen," gave their "doom." The
docket can have one of three possible interpretations,
viz. (i) landedmen and roythmen, in Orkney at that
time, i.e., present in Orkney at that time, " in Orkney "
being qualified by "at that time " ; (2) landedmen and
roythmen (in Orkney) at that time, which would mean
1 Mackenzie's Grievances (1750), reprint, app. ii., iv., and pp. n,
12, in which the assize of lawthing = ratmen = raadmen, coun-
cillors, and hence the fictitious Orkney and Shetland raadmen of
2 Ibid., 252.
238 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
that the landowners and roythmen were reckoned as
officials, an explanation which would involve a number
of absurdities ; or (3) landedmen and roythmen in
Orkney, \_doomsmen or assisemen; or present] at that
time. 1 The original document is in the Record Room,
Sheriff Clerk's Office, Kirkwall. The terms " landed-
men roythmen," " landedmen and roythmen," " royth-
men and roythmen's sons, "are all explicit definitions of
the qualification of logrettumenn : they had to be land-
owners who were oftalsmenn or their sons, i.e., 6Sals-
bcendr, as opposed to bcendr in the possession of
bought land, a distinction and qualification which dis-
appeared, with the term roythmen, when the assize was
packed with persons other than oSalsmenn.
Besides the lawthing, ogangs and retts, there were
also courts of arbiters and the bailie courts ; which
latter may have been the continuation of the district-
j>ing. In Shetland the parish foud and bailie were
synonymous terms. 2 The justice of Orkney and the
foud, foguti, of Shetland, sometimes one and the same
person, represented the executive, and were similar to
the syslumaoV of Norway. In Shetland the foud was
also the receiver of the public taxes and of the rents of
the earldom lands.
There were precisely similar officers in both Orkney
and Shetland : lawman, justice or foud, underfouds
(or bailies) and lawrightmen. The two latter terms are
seldom used in Orkney. The Shetland lawrightman,
in 1576 and before, is described as an officer in every
isle and parish, who was chosen by the common con-
sent and election of the foud and commons, as their
procurator and defender, to keep the weights and
measures by which their taxes were paid, and to see
1 As ' for the time,' is the usual official, and ' present at that time,'
the usual unofficial designation, and as the docket term, ' at that
time,' is part of the latter, probably ' '-present ' has been omitted.
2 Opp. O.Z., 58.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 239
that the taxes were justly measured. He was also
specially chosen, for his discretion and judgment, to
be chancellor of the assize in all courts, where he had
to settle any legal questions and show the law, use and
practice thereon, and to inform the assize and to pro-
nounce decreets. For this service he was paid by the
commons. 1 This payment may have been direct, or
it may have been provided for in the skatt. The greater
part of the skatt in Orkney and Shetland was undefined
and was paid simply as butter-, malt-skatt, etc.
Although leiSangr, war tax, is not specifically
mentioned in the Orkney skatt, it, as the fundamental
skatt, must of course be included in the general term
skatt. One of the taxes paid in Orkney is called
"forcop," fararkaup, travelling expenses, the term
used in Gulathing Law for the wages paid to the levy.
This term has hitherto been, incorrectly, explained as
fyingfararkaup, the Icelandic term for the travelling
expenses paid to those attending a j>ing; whereas the
Norwegian terms are fyingfararfe in Frostathing, and
fe in Gulathing.
As regards the " Lawbook " of Orkney and Shetland,
nothing is known of its existence after the judicial refer-
ence to it in i6o2. 2
It has been shown that Orkney and Shetland, so far
as evidence goes, were under the same code, corres-
ponding to New Gulathing Law, which would have
made it possible for the same man to act as lawman, or
expounder of the law, in both groups, which we know
was the case.
In 1611, after the downfall of Patrick Stewart, earl
of Orkney, the Scottish privy council abrogated all
. O.Z., 18, 27.
2 Mackenzie's Grievances of O. and S., 6-7. The earl of Orkney referred
to it in 1611, as " the auld Dans lawis by which they were governed."
Peterkin's Notes, App. 86. The bishop, in 1642, remarked that 65al
succession was in accordance with "the law of Norroway," P.R.,
240 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
foreign laws in Orkney and Shetland, 1 as well as certain
specified laws, " whether they be established by acts
and ordinances or received by custom and observation
of the country," 2 and declared that the islands were
to be subject to the law of Scotland. A commission
was issued to the bishop of Orkney and another to
convocate and assemble the whole inhabitants to concur
and assist them ; to make, prescribe and set down acts,
statutes and ordinances for keeping the inhabitants
under his majesty's obedience, and to hold sheriff and
justice courts. 3 In 1615, the sheriffs depute held a court
at which certain acts were passed by the sheriffs with
advice and consent of the gentlemen suitors of court
and commons, all with one advice, consent and assent/
In 1623, acts were passed by the sheriffs with the
advice and consent of the gentlemen and bailies ot
parishes and suitors of court. 5 In 1628, acts were
passed by the sheriffs depute with consent of the whole
gentlemen and suitors of court and commonalty present
for the time. 6
These courts would naturally be constituted and con-
ducted on the same lines as the lawthing, their
immediate predecessor, which they replaced ; a general
assembly of the commons, a primary legislature, by
whose consent acts were adopted, while legal decisions
were given by an assize (logretta) chosen from the
The office of lawrightman (logrettumaSr) appears,
latterly, to have been divided into two distinct offices,
held by different persons, viz., that of (i) a parochial
" lawrightman," who looked after the interest of the
commons in his district, and (2) a member of the assize
(logretta) of the lawthing, chosen at the lawthing.
Probably a fresh assize was chosen for each sitting of
the court, or for each case.
1 Peterkin's Notes, App. 64. *Ibid. 69.
3 Ibid. 66. 4 Barry's Orkney, reprint, 1867, 412.
5 Ib id. 421. e Ibid. 424. ''Ibid. 420.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 241
The following questions remain to be answered : Was
there one manuscript lawbook for both Orkney and
Shetland, or had each its own copy ? Was the law-
book of 1602 in old Norse, Danish or English ? If
it was in old Norse, had it marginal explanations in
English ? The possibility of a translation having been
made seems highly probable, especially in Orkney,
where Norse became generally extinct at an early date.
The rentals of the earldom were translated circa 1490,
if not earlier, and several old Norse charters bear a
contemporary note, " put this into Inglis." As the
lawrightman in Shetland had to " show the law " to
his parochial assize, it seems to be self-evident that
each lawrightman must have had a copy of the Law-
book, in the same way as the later bailies had each
to have a copy of the Acts of Bailliary (Barry's Orkney,
1808, 469, 482).
TAXATION : SKATTR.
Skatt is assessed in Orkney and Shetland on the
ounceland, eyrisland, which is subdivided into 18
pennylands, and each pennyland into 4 farthinglands.
In Norway the eyrir, ounce, of money = 30-60 pennies
= mark of silver. The English and Scottish mark =
135. 4d., of which ^ = 20 pence. The Orkney ounce of
i8d. may be explained from the fact that a Shetland
mark (paid in produce) was reckoned equal to 12
shillings, of which J = i8d. The ounce, eyrir, in eyris-
land, and the penny, penningr, in pennyland undoubt-
edly represent the amount of the original land rent.
Skatt was only assessed on cultivated land, and it
ceased so long as the land was not cultivated.
In 895, Orkney was fined 60 gold marks, as weregild
for the slaughter of the king's son. It is not stated
whether Shetland had to pay a share. This sum
apparently represented the purchase value of the whole
'O.S.R., I., 57.
242 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
estates in Orkney, or in Orkney and Shetland, as other-
wise the oSalsmenn would scarcely have given up their
65ul as a quid pro quo. Sixty gold marks were
equivalent to 480 silver marks 3,840 silver aurar. A
very rough estimate of the eyrislands in Orkney, in
1500-1595, gives about 170, which is probably much too
little. If the eyrir in eyrisland represents the rent value
in 895, then the 170 eyrir x 22^ years' purchase would
equal the amount of the fine paid to Harald. In
Denmark, circa 1200, land was valued at 24 years' pur-
chase. 1 Of course it is just possible that Harald's fine
did not amount to the full purchase value of the estates,
so that Shetland may have been included ; but it seems
unlikely that Shetland would have been fined for a
crime committed in Orkney by Orkneymen.
It is not known how many eyrislands there are in
Shetland. In 1628, there were 13,392 marks of land 2 ;
and one pennyland, or v? eyrisland, was valued at 8
marks in I299. 1 On the assumption that the average
value of a pennyland was four marks, as in Orkney,
this would give 181 eyrislands in Shetland, or more
than in Orkney. In the beginning of the I7th century
the relative valuation of Orkney and Shetland was
regarded as 2:1, for the purpose of assessing Scottish
land tax 3 ; in 1912 the ratio was 1.34 : 1 ; in 1881, 1.91 : i ;
in 1861, 1.57:1." Eyrisland is explained in Fritzner's
Ordbog, as land paying an eyrir of rent.
If, on the other hand, the eyrisland were a gold
purchase-price valuation of Orkney and Shetland in
895, corresponding with the amount of Harald's fine,
then the Orkney eyrislands *i7o + the Shetland eyris-
lands *i8i = 351, as compared with the 480 gold aurar
of Harald's fine. On this supposition, and assuming
that 129 eyrislands had gone astray, the difference
between the gold valuation of 895 and the later sterling
1 Orkney and Shetland Miscellany, I., 118.
2 Goudie's Shetland, 177.
8 Peterkin's Notes, 153.
4 Tudor's Orkneys, 202. 412.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 243
silver mark valuation, 1 is as i : 72 ; i.e., i gold eyris-
land = i silver mark in 895, whereas the average value
of the eyrisland in sterling silver marks, was 72 (eyris-
land = 1 8 penny lands x average 4 marks). The lowest
silver valuation was 18 marks, and the highest 360.
The burnt silver mark valuation of Orkney was
the English mark of 135. 4d. (D.N. II., 146, A.D.,
1329; Proceeds. S.A.Scot., 1884, 273). In England,
2os. in 1329 = 66s. in present coins (see McCulloch's
Coinml. Diet., s.v. Coins), so that the English mark
of 1329 would be = 445. in present coins. Dasent cal-
culated that the Norse mark of the loth century = 36
shillings sterling (Burnt Njal, II., 404), but it was
probably of the same value as the English mark
which was current in Orkney in 1329. Assuming
that the eyrisland valuation is that of the silver-rent
in 872, then the rent of an eyrisland in 872 was one
eyrir, or | old Norse burnt mark silver = 55. 6d. stg.,
as compared with 295. 4d. sterling in 1500, in Orkney,
i.e., as i : 5.3, an increase which seems reasonable.
The latter calculation is arrived at as follows : the
eyrisland of i8d. lands was valued in 1500, on the aver-
age at 72 sterling marks silver (4 marks per d.) on
which rent was charged, on the average, at the rate of
lod. Scots, and the ratio of Sterling to Scots, at that
time was i : 3f; 2 so that 72 marks x rod. Scots = 72od.
Scots = 2ood. stg. = 295. 4d. stg., in present coins,
silver rent per eyrisland.
The eyrisland valuation must have been made in 872,
for the assessment of the skatt which Harald imposed
for the support of the government of his earl. The
ounceland, or tirung, and pennyland of the Hebrides
must be explained in the same way.
It can be proved by the rental of 1500 (P.R., I), that
kviar, Orkn. quoys, folds or enclosures, in the com-
1 The earliest record of the mark valuation is in 1299, O.S.R., I., 38.
1 Prsceeds S. A. Scot., 1884, p. 255. McCulloch's. Comml.
244 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
mons, which presumably had been brought under
cultivation after the original eyrisland valuation had
been made, were also valued and included in the skatt-
roll. It is obvious that such new land would not have
been let off skatt-free in the early vigour of the Norse
fiscal system. It may, therefore, be safely assumed
that Harald's fine amounted to the price of the taxable
land in Orkney in 895, and was calculated, on the basis
of the then existing eyrisland or rental valuation, at
twenty-four years' purchase. This would give 160
eyrislands in Orkney, in 895, or about 10 less than in
1500, which seems a reasonable allowance for the sub-
sequent increase of cultivated and taxable land. 1
The value of the marks of land in Orkney had
evidently decreased considerably in value by 1500,
when land, formerly worth a mark of 135. 4d. stg. (the
sterling mark of 1329 would be = 255. stg. in 1500),
was let for a payment of produce, worth rod. and i2d.
Scots, =2-g-d. and 3^d. stg. Whereas in 1602, mark
(6s. 8d. stg.) of land was sold for 435. 4d. stg. ; 2
and in 1603, 6 marks (^4 6s. 8d.) was sold for 20
stg. 3 At this time sterling to Scots money was
i : 12, and the sterling mark of 1329 = 415. 4d. stg.,
so that the land was sold for about double its mark
1 Comparative value of Orkney in 895 and 1912 :
A D. Rent. Value at 24 years' purchase.
895- /44- i56.
1912. 87,920. 2,110,080, including Kirkwall and Stromness.
1912. 65,254. i, 566, 096. excluding Kirkwall and Stromness,
Banks and Bu of Orphir g|d. land.
895. o2s.9j|d. 3 73. lod.
1906. 85. 2,040.
Including the towns, Orkney was about 2,000, and excluding the
towns, 1,483 times more valuable in 1912 than 895; whereas the Bu
of Oiphir was only 601 times more valuable; but Orkney now
includes a large area of new land.
2 O.S.R., I., 272.
3 Ibid., 221.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 245
The earl's acquisition of the 6Sul in Orkney in
exchange for the fine which he paid for the oSalsmenn
placed them in the same position as the oSalsmenn in
Norway, where Harald appropriated all the oo'ul and
the 65alsmenn became his vassals and tenants. In both
cases the 6Sul were ultimately restored to the oSalsmenn,
in order to gain their support. The Heimskringla, in
one version, states that Harald himself took possession
of the 6Sul in Orkney, and gave them to earl Einar as
a len or fief. Pennylands were, at a later date, valued
at their purchase price in burnt silver marks of 135. 4d.
sterling each, and on this valuation land rent was
charged in Orkney down till 1600. The eyrislands of
Orkney are mentioned in I263. 1 In Shetland the marks
of land ceased to be used as the uniform basis of rent
charge as early as the sixteenth century, when land was
leased at so many pennies per mark, the penny repre-
senting the actual currency value of the rent paid in
produce. This method continued in use in Shetland
until the eighteenth century. The pennyland and
eyrisland valuation of Shetland is now lost; there is
only one record of a pennyland in Papey, in 1299,
when its purchase price was valued at eight silver marks
(=i gold mark), on which the rent was then charged,
as in Orkney. 2
The purchase value in marks of the pennylands in
Orkney varies considerably. Land in the north isles
had not increased so much in value as in the Mainland
(Hrossey). This is undoubtedly accounted for by the
fact that the north isles (excepting Rousey, Edey and
Westrey), are flat and without heath or moorland, and
1 Hak. S., 365-366, where eyrisland is translated, geldable land and
crown estate !
3 O.S.R., I., 38; Old-Lore Miscellany, I., 117-119. It is assumed
that the mark valuation was made previous to 1299 and continued
unaltered ; but it is possible that it may have been amended from
time to time. This valuation was only used for charging rent and
for the division of oftal inheritance, except in Shetland, where it
was latterly also used for tithing purposes.
246 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
consequently more easily cultivated. They would have
been cultivated to their full capacity when the first
valuation was made. Whereas the Mainland, with its
heaths, hills, streams and alluvial soil, provided, as it
still does, considerable scope for breaking in new land
capable of improvement. In Sandey, as its name
implies, sand drift formed a serious impediment to its
cultivation. The relative value of Orphir (Mainland
parish), to Sandey (north isle), is in pennylands, as
i : 7, whereas the present rental ratio is i : 2. When
the markland valuation was made, the average value
of a pennyland in Sandey was ij marks, and in Orphir
8 marks or over.
6-DAL LAW: ODALSRETTR.
Five generations of continuous ownership of land
converted the estate into an oo'al, its owner into an
oSalsma'Sr, and his son oSalborinn. The 6Sal could
not be alienated without being first offered to the nearest
heir, and, when alienated, it could be redeemed again.
Before 1275, 65'ul were inherited equally by the sons
only; but, after that date, daughters inherited one-
half of a son's share, and the eldest son had the first,
choice of the head house, hbfuftbol, hofufiboeli-, and
this was the law in Orkney and Shetland until the six-
On the introduction of Christianity, the church
speedily got rid of the inability of the 65alsmenn to
bequeath land and goods to the church, by the enact-
ment of laws which permitted oSalsmenn to give
a hofufttiund and dvaxtartiund, a lithe of stock given
once in one's lifetime (usually on the deathbed), and an
annual tithe of income. Latterly the law allowed oSals-
menn to give away tiundargjb'f, a tenth of inherited land
and loose goods, and fjdrftungsgjb'f, a fourth of self-
acquired land and loose goods, terms which appear in
Orkney charters as " tiend penny and the ferd." These
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. . 247
gifts could be left to anyone, and were redeemable in
the usual way.
Upon the death of an 65alsma(5r, a court was held on
the seventh day afterwards, and accordingly called a
sjaund, at which the property was divided.
As early as 1544, primogeniture crept into Orkney,'
fortified by crown charters, 1 and is now general.
CURRENCY : VERDAURAR.
In 1500, we have the last relic of butter currency in
Orkney, when 2id. of butter=i spann. 2 In Shetland,
butter and cloth currency was in use until the seven-
teenth century ; an ell of va5mal being = 2d.-vaSmal,
and 4 marks weight of butter = id. -butter, and i lispund
of butter = 6d.-butter. 3 In 1575, 2d.-vaSmal = 2s. Scots. 4
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: VAG OK MOLING.
The information on this subject is too meagre and
uncertain to arrive at any safe conclusion at present.
The only certainty is that the weights and measures
were fixed by law in Orkney and Shetland in 1828, and
they differ in amount.
The spann, butter measure, of 2 id. butter, is men-
tioned in Orkney in 1500, as equivalent in current
market value to 4 lispunds of butter; and 20 lispunds
of butter as equivalent in value to a barrel of butter.
The lispund, lifspund, linspund, and the setting,
settungr, are, contrary to Norwegian custom, each
divided into 24 marks. As in Norway, 6 settings =i
meil (mcelir). 5
In Norway the bismarapund = 24 marks; a sub-
division which probably got transferred to the lispund
and setting in Orkney and Shetland. But here we must
leave the subject, which can only be elucidated by a
^t. Seal Reg., Scot.
2 P.R., No. I.
3 MS. rental with Viking Society; Goudie's Shetland, 178.
4 Opp. O.Z., 27.
5 P.R., No. I.
248 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
large and systematic accumulation of facts, and by a
thorough examination and study of the weights and
measures of Norway and the Hebrides.
SOCIETY : FOLK. 1
Classes. In Gulajnngslog, circa 1100, society was
grouped into five main classes : (i) thralls, (2) freed
thralls, (3) free men and freeholders, (4) noblemen,
feoffees of crown lands, (5) earls and king. The last
four classes were further divided into seven grades,
stig, so far as the payment of wergild, bot, was
1. unfree, ufrjdls : }>rcell, pi. \rcelar, thrall.
2. f reed-man : leysingi, pi. leysingiar, freed
(a) leysingi of the first four generations,
who was still dependent on the
original owner. i
(b) leysingssonr, the fifth generation,
when }>yrmsl, dependence, on the
original owner ceased. 2
3. bondi, pi. boendr :
(a) a tenant of a farm, or the owner of
kaupajorft, bought land, as opposed to
d5a/s/orS, freehold. 3
(b) freeholder, franklin, hauldr, holdr, pi.
hauldar, oftalsmaftr, oftalborinn
maftr ; land became 6Sal when it was
inherited from five forefathers, in the
sixth generation. 2
1 N.G.L., see also Seebohm's Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law.
- In Seebohm's Tribal custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, 1903, 273, he
quotes from Gulathing Law, 270, an incidental reference to 6Sal
which is there described as land which afi has left to afi, and which
his translator has rendered : ' grandfather has left to grandfather.'
Afi in this instance means ancestor (see N.G.L., V., Gloss, s.v., and
Fritzner, s.v., (3) ). The full definition of 68al is given in Gula-
thing Law, 266.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 249
4. nobleman, lendborinn, lendrmaftr, landed-
man (formerly hersir), one holding a len,
fief, of the king. 12
5. highborn man, tignarmaftr :
(a) jarl, earl, holding a Un, fief, of the nil
(b) konungr, king. 48
To the titled classes the hertogi, duke, was added
later on. The titles of barun and riddari, baron and
knight were conferred, in 1277, on the lendirmen, and
the skutilsveinn in the king's hirft, bodyguard, who
were styled herra, lord. Herra was also applied to
bishops, and sira to priests.
In accordance with Old Borgarthings Law these
distinctions of class and grade were applied to the
dead as well as to the living. The churchyard was
divided into four quarters for burial. Lendirmenn
were buried east and south-east of the church, under
the eaves if they had taken part in the building of the
church, otherwise they were buried in the bcendr's
quarter. Hauldar and their children were buried next
to the lendirmenn, and the \>rcelar, thralls, next to the
churchyard wall. 1
The following are the saga references to society,
officials, personal appearance, etc., etc.
As regards personal appearance, special attention is
always directed to dark and swarthy persons, who are
sometimes described as unlucky looking, and to very
fair persons with flaxen hair. The inference being that
the average islander was brown-haired, and not a pure
1 In the Oxford Icelandic Diet., s.v., Holdr, is given a description
of the Norwegian graveyard, which concludes with a statement thai
'the hold had right to twice as much,' etc.; in the Diet, after nearest
to the wall insert sources N.G.L., I., 344, 559, 368, and then com-
mence In cases of landndm, i.e., fines for illegal possession or use
of land, the hold had right to twice as much, etc., and correct the
source to N.G.L., 44.
250 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
In 880, earl Hallad got weary of the earldom, and
took up his haulds rett, 6Sal right, and went back to
Norway. When he resigned his len, fief, of the earl-
dom he was only a hauldr or oSalborinn, as there was
nothing else for him, unless the king gave him another
len and made him a lendrmaSr in Norway.
Earl Torf-Einar, 880-900, the famous skald (whose
name was given by Snorri to a metre called Torf-Einars-
hdltr), after he had an eagle carved on the back of
Half dan, the son of Harald harfagri, and sacrificed him
to OSin, sung a song in which he referred to the
holdar who had warned him of the danger, hcetta, he
had incurred. The Orkney 65alsmenn or bcendr were
therefore called hauldar.
For this crime king Harald, as already mentioned,
exacted a payment, gjald, from the islands. Earl Torf-
liinar paid the fine, in security for which the bcendr
gave him their 6Sul. The rich, auftigr, bcendr agreed,
because they thought that they would be able to redeem
them, while the poor, snauftr, bcendr had no money
to pay the gjald.
We have here a clear statement that the bcendr of
Orkney (and Shetland ?) were hauldar or oSalbornir.
The designation b6ndi is applied, throughout the saga,
to the 65albornir or oSalsmenn of the islands. The
Scottish hofSingi, Summerled, is called a hb'ldr, in
1157. The bcendr of Shetland are called fyegnar, thanes
or freemen, in a verse.
Earl Einar took the earldom as a len, or fief, from
the king, and was not required to pay any skatt (as was
paid by the earls in Norway), on account of the viking
raids to which the islands were subject.
Throughout the existence of the Norse earldom, 872-
1468, it was always held as a fief from the king of
Norway, each earl being invested. The title was not
strictly hereditary, as it was conferred, at will, by the
king, on any member or connexion of the family, or
on another family altogether. Earl SigurS, circa 995,
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 251
restored the 65ul to the bcendr for services rendered
to him in Scotland. He had a /nrS, bodyguard, which
numbered among its members, Helgi and Grim Njals-
sons and Kari. He had also a syshimaftr, steward, in
Caithness and Stroma. The b&tr, wergild, awarded
by the king for the slaughter of earl Einar, in 1026,
was fixed as for three lendirmenn, instead of two as in
the above list.
Earl I>orfinn, who ruled 1014-1064, was half a Scots-
man, his mother being a daughter of the king of
Scotland. He had the whole earldom to manage after
1028 and to own 1030-1035, the period of king Knut's
reign over Norway. He had his foirS, bodyguard, and
treated them and many other rikismenn, mighty men,
exceptionally well, as he furnished them with meat and
drink all the winter through, and not merely at Yule,
as was the custom of other earls and kings, so that no
man needed to go to a skytningr,- a guild or club.
Earl Rognvald, 1045, brought certain matters before
his vinir and rdftgjafar, friends and councillors. A
raSgjafi was one of the council of a king or princely
When earl Rognvald burnt earl f>orfinn's bu, in
1046, the women and the ufrjdls, unfreemen, i.e.,
thralls, were allowed to escape, but the hirSmenn were
burnt in the house, "as they would be no better to
him alive than dead." However, the earl escaped in
Frequently a sdttar-fundr, peacemeeting, was held for
the settlement of private disputes. During 1098-1102,
SigurS, the nine-year-old son of king Magnus, was
made earl of Orkney, when the two ruling earls were
banished to Norway. The king provided him with a
During king Magnus' expedition to Scotland and
England, Magnus, afterwards earl and saint, acted in
his /lirS as skutilsveinn.
On the succession of SigurS to the throne, the sons
252 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
of the banished earls who had since died were made
earls. Both of these earls were married to Scottish
wives. Among the earl's men, in 1116, are mentioned
his merkismaftr, standard bearer, and steikari, cook.
The merkismaSr of the king ranked as a lendrmaSr.
When earl Hakon's merkismaSr declined to execute
St. Magnus, his steikari was ordered to do so. There
is a distinction drawn between the rikismen and bcendr
who attended a thing in 1137; the difference may have
been one of wealth, as previously mentioned, auSigr
and snauftr. There were njosnarmen (news-men),
spies, in those days. The bishop, on one occasion,
acted as meftalferftarmaftr, intercessor, between the
earls. There were two gildirmenn, great men, in 1128,
Jon vagngr (wing), at Uppland in Haey, and his
brother RikarS, at Brekka in Strj6nsey.
In 1135, the earl had his skutilsveinn and kertisveinn
page and torchbearer, at feasts. The skutilsveinn was
one of the hirft, bodyguard.
Two earls shared the earldom in 1139, and it was
arranged that one should have ra5, rule, and that they
should have only one hirS between them.
Earl Rognvald, the saint and skald, took into his
hirS, Hall, the Icelandic skald, and they collabor-
ated in the composition of the famous " Hattalykill
hinn forni," a key to metres, and used five visur,
strophes, to each hdttr, metre, but the kvcefti, song, was
thought too long, and now two are sung to each hattr.
Other Icelandic skalds were also taken into his hirS.
This earl had his syslumaftr, steward, in Caithness, to
collect his revenues.
Svein, the last of the vikings, who was latterly a
hirSmaSr of earl Rognvald, had in his house a heima-
kona, housemaid, and huskarlar, menservants, followers
or bodyguard. He had also a landseti or husbondi, a
tenant of one of his farms. The earl's and Svein 's
huskarlar may have been their hirS, and not merely
menservants ; because this term is sometimes applied
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 253
even to the king's hirS. When Svein and earl Erlend
met unexpectedly, at a time when they happened to be
at feud with each other, they endeavoured to settle their
dispute on the spot. But as the earl was not accom-
panied by his hirft and rdftuneyti, bodyguard and coun-
cil, Svein offered the services of his own fylg&, fol-
lowers or bodyguard, and raSuneyti. 1 This gives a
good idea of the status of an Orkney rikismaor, gofugr
maSr or gceSingr, of the period,
Other leading men, such as I?orbj6rn klerk, had a
sveitungr or fylgSarmenn, a following of men.
-The designation gceSingr denotes a man of gcefti,
wealth. In 1064, the earl's gceSingar are mentioned.
Earl Rognvald had the bishop and many of his gceSin-
gar at his Yule feast. Svein 's revenues in Caithness,
in 1126, are called his gceSi. In 1153, the gceSingar
went into two bands and took sides with the two earls.
In 1128, it is remarked that there were many gofugir
menn, noblemen, in Orkney, of the stock of the earls,
who were all gceSingar of earl Pal. In 1136, earl Pal
summoned the gceSingar and asked council. He had
a great feast with his gceSingar. The earl's gceSingar
came to the earl when the danger beacons were lit.
There is a reference in Fms. vi., 442, to the king's
stallari and other gceSingar, and x, 303, to the king's
borS and gceSingar. The conclusion seems inevitable
that the term gceSingar was applied in Orkney to the
earl's hirSmenn, the "gentles" of a later period. At any
rate they were the wealthy oSalbornin, and of the stock
of the earls. A gceSingr was described in 1 159, as of the
earl's kin, and the gofgastr mafrr, most worshipful by
birth, in the earl's /iS,. troops. They are always called
the earl's gceSingar and of his- kin ; possibly they had
grants, during the earl's life, of portions of the earldom
lands at veizlu, in return for which they would have
to support him in battle and to entertain him when on
circuit, corresponding with the king's lendirmenn. As
1 The translation of Orkn. is bad here. ,-v
2 54 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
the earl only held the earldom for life, in fief from the
king, he could only grant portions of it, at veislu,
during his tenure.
A Shetland buandi ( bondi), in 1137, had a leigu-
maftr, servant ; and man-frelsi, giving a thrall his free-
dom, is mentioned.
An drraaoV, steward, also appears in the earl's ser-
vice. A bondi in Caithness was described as gb'fugr,
In 1154, St. Magnus' cathedral was used as A
Harald Thorbjorn addressed earl Rognvaldr as herra
in 1139-48, a title only applied to kings and earls at that
time. In 1277, knights and barons were created in
Norway, to whom the title of herra was given.
The king's foguti, bailiff, appears in Shetland, when
it was annexed to Norway, in 1194, and the king sent
his befalingsmen, 1 officers, to Orkney and Shetland in
In 1273-1299, Shetland was in the appanage of
hertogi, duke, Hakon, afterwards king of Norway.
There were no lendirmenn in Orkney and Shetland,
as the earl was sole feoffee, but their place in society
and in the government of the earldom would be taken
by the rich and leading oSals-bcendr, the rikismenn,
goeSingar, etc., who probably represented the earls in
their respective districts.
Besides the political divisions of classes, it will have
been already observed that there were then, as now,
a multiplicity of social distinctions, even in one class.
It has already been mentioned that, as early as 895,
the brendr were divided into rich and poor, as well as
the earls' kin, chiefs, great men and such like. For
matrimonial purposes there would, undoubtedly, have
1 Orkn. 236 : Peder Clauson Undals Danish translation (circa
1600) of the lost Boglunga sogur; at this time (1210) the term
befalingsman does not occur in Norway. The term used in Sverr. S.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 255
been still further discrimination observed, having
regard to family associations. The islands must have
been a veritable storehouse of genealogical lore, seeing
that five generations had to be traced back to claim 6Sal
right, and four for a freed thrall family to claim to be
freeborn. In Frostathinglaw, a family of thrall origin
had to trace eight generations, in order to become
arborinn. The law required these genealogies to be
proved by witnesses in court.
As regards the 65als-bcendr, they were all, rich and
poor, members of their primary lawthing, and eligible
for nomination as members of the logretta the humble
owner working his own patch of ground, and the rich
owner with his estate let out to tenants and, as such,
they were indiscriminately, rich and poor, described as
g68ir-menn; good men, i.e., good, honest and respect-
able men ; whereas the rich, the well-born and leading
men, or rulers, who were members of the hirSmanna-
stefna, were, as such, appropriately described as the
" gentles " of the country. The hirSmannastefna,
which originally was concerned with court ceremonial,
latterly, in Orkney, acted as a judicial assembly, over
which the earl presided.
The inborn faculty for genealogy was maintained in
Shetland until the nineteenth century, when it is told
that some families had oral genealogies going back for
centuries, which had been handed down from genera-
tion to generation.
Living. In the saga we have descriptions of home-
steads skdli, hall; stofa, parlour; bakhus, bakehouse;
bygghus, bigghouse, barn ; brunnr, well ; Ijori, an
opening in the roof for light and for the escape of
smoke from the langeldar, longfires, in the centre of
the hall floor; when the fires were not burning the Ijori
was covered with a skjd-vindauga, skin window, formed
of a skjd-grind, a frame, covered with skjall, a mem-
brane or skin, to admit light ; walls were hung with
tjald, tapestry, with mythological subjects.
256 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
There were skytningar, clubs or guilds, and Kirkwall
was a kaupstaftr, merchant town, in 1137. The earls
wore kyrtills and gilded helmets and had underclothing
of lin-klcefti, linen.
Bread-breaking was performed as a peace token.
Brewing took place before Yule, when feasts were held
and solemn memorial toasts drunk out of horns,
kapp-drykkja. Evening meals, with drinking after,
were the fashion.
Earl Rognvald indulged in harp-playing, and in
extemporising poetry. Among games mentioned are
mann-jofnufSr, man-matching, comparing which is the
better of two, frequently ending in bloodshed ; tafl,
' : Among sports : otter (otr) hunting, hare (heri) hunt-
in'g, grouse (heiftar-hcend) shooting, in 1154, in Ork-
ney, and deer hunting in Caithness.
Ships. In the mythical part of the saga we are told
of a stjornfastskip, a ship with the rudder fixed, a
term used again in 1098, also bakborfti, larboard, as
opposed to stjornborfii, starboard, which is mentioned
in 1152. The following notices are arranged chrono-
.880 : stafnbui, forecastle men (stafn, stem, bow or
stern framstafn, the bow, aptrstafn, the stern). The
term occurs again in 1136, with frambyggvar, bow-
sitters. The gangway leading to the bow was called
1029: langskip, longship; framan siglu, before' the
mast; sigla, mast; segl, sail; stafnle, a grappling hook
(le, a scythe); dr, oar; lypting, poop, a raised place
(castle) on the poop.
. 1046: bdtr, boat; hdls, the bow or neck of a boat;
andceja, to paddle a boat against tide and wind to pre-
vent drifting, modern dialect ando.
1047 : tvitug-sessa, twenty-oared ship (sessa, a seat).
,1098 : fyrirrum, the first cabin in the after part, next
J IT O -
Orkney and Shetland Historical Xotes. 257
1136: }>iljur (planks), the deck; smd skip, small
ships; sexceringr, six-oared boat, modern Shetland
sixareen ; veiftar-fteri, fishing tackle.
1137 : byr&ingr, a merchant ship, a ship of burden;
skuta, a small craft, cutter.
1148: skipstjornarma&r, ship steerer, captain,
skipper ; pritugt at ruma-tali, a ship with thirty rooms,
seats or divisions, for sixty rowers ; buit skip, orna-
mented ship ; hdlf-fcrtugt at ruma-tali, a ship with
thirty-five rooms, for seventy rowers, and gulli lagi
allir enni-spcenir ok veftrvitar ok vifia annars-staftar
buit, gilded carved heads and weather-vane and many
other parts ornamented ; dreki (a dragon), a ship of war,
with a dragon's head as beak, and hofufiin ok krokar
aptr mjok gullbuit, the head and tail or coils aft much
gilded, and hlyr-birt, stained on the bows, and painted
above the water line.
1152: dromundr, a warship, in the Mediterranean.
1154: reiQi, tackle, including sails; eptir-bdtr, after
boat, a cock boat of a ship.
1158 : tjald, a tent or awning on board ship.
Beliefs. Torf-Einar slew a viking in the ninth
century and gave him to the troll, trolls ; he made an
Orkneyman cut an o'rn, eagle, on the back of Half dan
halegg with a sverft, sword, and skera, cut, the rif,
ribs, all from the hryggr, spine, and draga, draw 7 , there
out the lungu, lungs, and gaf, gave, him to OS in for
his sigr, victory; after which he let cast Halfdan's
haugr, how, when he sung : " The Xorns have ruled it
rightly." In 995 earl SigurS digri and the Orkneyingar
were asserted by Olaf Tryggvason trua, to believe, in
ymislig skur&gofi, various idols or ' carved gods.'
When the king desired skira, to baptise, the earl, the
latter preferred to abide by the dtrunaftr, faith, and the
siSr, religion, of his frcendr, kinsmen, and forfeftr, fore-
fathers (Orkn., 313, quoting Flalcyjarbok, ch. 12).
A spdmaftr, spaeman, forneskjumafir, sorcerer, or visin-
damaSr, wizard, was consulted by earl Hakon Palsson,
258 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
in 1090-94, about getting hamingja, good luck, and
hearing his forlog, future fate, by forneskja or fjol-
kyngi, witchcraft. Heathen sacrifice, blot, is referred to.
Svein brjostreip, a hir&'maSr of earl Pal, was forn
tnjbk, versed in old lore or witchcraft, and had con-
stantly uti setift and sat uti um nottina, sat out at night
as a wizard (at the cross-roads), which is described as
ubotaverk, a crime, in N.G.L. Svein preferred witch-
craft to attending midnight mass on Yule eve. The
slaughter of Svein was welcomed by the bishop as land
hreinsan, a cleansing of the land, a term used in Gula-
thing Law for clearing the land of miscreants.
Society after Saga times. The last Norse earls in the
male line were already half Scottish in 1206; and
numerous Scottish relatives and friends of theirs came
to Orkney. As regards Scottish marriages, like rulers
like people. After 1206, the Scottish earls ruled. From
that time till 1400, and later, is more or less a blank,
except certain misdeeds of the bishops, an elopement,
rival claimants to the earldom, and clergy translated
from Norway to Orkney and Shetland. In 1347, king
Magnus Eiriksson bequeathed, to St. Magnus'
cathedral, a chasuble, dalmatic tunicle and a cope. 1
The king of England complained to Norway about
the bishop of Moray, the excommunicated adherent of
Robert the Bruce, being harboured in Orkney 2 ; and
later on, Robert the Bruce, who, tradition says, him-
self took refuge in Orkney, in turn complained about
one of his fugitives being received there. 3 An agree-
ment, in Norse, drawn up in 1369, between the bishop
and the representative of the king of Norway, during an
interregnum in the earldom, gives some insight into the
social condition of the islands at that time. 4 It was
agreed that the bishop and the rikast menn, noblest
men, in Orkney and Shetland, should be first and fore-
1 D.N., V., 149.
'D.N., XIX., 544.
"D.N., V.. 63. See also II., 98; XIX., 594.
'D.N., I., 308.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Xotes. 259
most in all rdS, councils, henceforth as regarded the
king, church and people, according to the laws and
landssiftir, customs of the country, and that the bishop
should have godirmen (O.X. goftir mcnn), good, honest
men, inlenzkir, born in, Orkney and Shetland, at }>j6na,
to serve him, as the custom was with other bishops in
The islands were evidently, at this early period,
suffering from Scottish adventurers. It is significant
that of the twenty-four leading men who were present
at the making of that agreement, many had Scottish
names, including the archdeacon of Orkney, a canon,
and several clergy. Only two had Norwegian names,
Gudbrand Andresson and Olave Skutt, while Sigurd
of Paplay may be the only native man among the lot.
The wardrobe and belongings of a Shetland gentle-
man of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries,
sir David Sinclair, great foud of Shetland, captain of
the king's castle in Bergen, etc., are set forth in his will
of 1506; inter alia:
Drinking vessels : two silver and one " mid " stoops,
with thirty stopps (flagons and cups?)
Ships : " The Carvell " ; a little ship; and the Inglis
Jewelry : gold chain, which he wore daily ; gold
chain, called a " collar," given to him by the king of
Denmark; great silver belt; signet.
Clothing : linen robe bought from the Flemings ; blue
doublet, with breast set with precious stones ; hood, set
with precious stones ; black doublet of velvet ; red hose ;
short red velvet coat, without sleeves ; short black velvet
coat ; doublet of cloth of gold ; grey satin gown ; three
ostrich feathers ; black damask gown with silver but-
tons ; grey scarlet hose ; doublet of down cramese ; red
velvet coat, left to the high altar of St. Magnus'
Cathedral ; two-thirds of a black velvet coat, left to St.
Magnus' church, Tingwall, and one-third to the Cross
church of Dunrosnes; green cloth, etc.
260 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Harness : three saddles, etc
Book : " The Book of Good Manners."
Another Shetland gentleman, Magnus Leslie of Ayth,
had purloined from him, circa 1576, by the foud of
Shetland, besides, food, drink, cattle, etc., the following
articles: sixteen ells of " keltar " ; one pair double
blankets ; a bed covering ; a doublet of cramese ; a
black cowl, which cost a crown of the sun ; three crystal
stones set in silver, of the Dutch fashion ; copper kettle ;
a keg, with twelve pounds of soap ; tin cans and
empty stoops ; honey ; cruses ; pigs (earthenware jars) ;
" stalis " ; cups; beakers; together with all his servants'
clothing, such as cassies, breeks, doublets. 1
Person-names. Patronymics were in use in Shet-
land until early in the nineteenth century, when they
became stereotyped. Some names in Shetland appear
to have been taken from local place-names. In Orkney
the last vestiges of patronymics occur in the sixteenth
century. In Orkney, Scottish settlers were rife, and
it is probable that the immediate descendants of the first
settlers, especially those without historic names, would
conform to the prevailing fashion of patronymics,
encouraged by local intermarriage ; and, later, un-
doubtedly the Scots set the fashion, and possibly began
the adoption of place- as person-names (an advantage
to fugitives). With the exception of Scottish and
other outland names, nearly all other Orkney person-
names are now derived from local place-names. In
the early stages of the adoption of place-surnames, and
when the custom was in its full vigour, such Orkney
place-names as may have replaced Scottish surnames
would become permanent ; whereas, in the final decay
of the fashion in the i8th century, we find, as was to
be expected, that the substituted place-surname was,
frequently, only of a temporary nature. We also find,
in Orkney, that persons readily changed their place-
surname for that of a new abode. Taking all this into
!Opp. O.Z.. 72.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 261
consideration, it would be difficult, if not impossible,
to say which families are now of native Norse origin
in the male line. Even Blaikie and Halcro, which have
hitherto been regarded as the most important Orkney-
Norse surnames, are only represented by genuine place-
names in Forfarshire and Caithness. Another Forfar-
shire place-name, Fothringham, is also the surname of
an old Orkney family.
Another factor to be considered is the changing of
place-names for one or other of the following reasons :
(i) the inclination to acquire a property with the same
or a similar sounding name to that of the purchaser,
and conforming one with the other; (2) the deliberate
changing of the place-name to that of the surname of
the owner, e.g., the Caithness place-name Halcro was
given to a place called Holland in South Ronaldsey,
which belonged to the Halcro family, in the sixteenth
century, and in recent times Balfour appears in Shapin-
sey, (3) personal association has introduced such foreign
place-names as Inkerman, Balaclava, Ballarat, etc.,,
while fables have converted Keeso into Kaesar, and
Grikalty into Agricola.
Of modern English place-names may be mentioned :
News = New-house, Nieland = New-land (old name
Orquil, in Orphir), Glowrowra = Glower-over-all, a
house on a hill-side, with a wide view.
There are known instances of the glossing of place-
surnames, induced by a sensitiveness to fashion. In
the ascendancy of Scottish influence, Rusland became
Russell, Burgar : Burgess, etc., and conversely, in the
full vigour of the Norse influence, Scottish surnames
would have been conformed to Orkney forms.
Each Scottish place-man and notable settler would
have been followed by a train of relatives, friends,
dependents and other persons from the same district,
as actually occurred in and after the sixteenth century,
of which we have records.
Those persons in Orkney and Shetland who can
262 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
prove their descent from the St. Clair earls (which
includes all the descendants of bishop Graham) are of
As an illustration of the readiness with which Scots-
men became naturalised in the islands,- may be men-
tioned the case of the Scottish-born Scotsman, Lawrence
Bruce of Cultmalindie. He was the principal agent in
1575 of the oppressor, lord Robert Stewart, and in 1592
numbered himself, together with seven other persons
bearing Scottish names, among the " odallers," and
as such supplicated the Scottish parliament against the
oppressions of Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney (the son
of his erstwhile employer), and championed the " gwid
subjectis, heritable possessoris of the udack ( !) lands
in Orkney and Zetland."
The bulk of the principal landowners in the islands
have had Scottish names for centuries, including some
leading 65al families, such as Irvine, Craigie,
Cromarty, Sinclair, etc.
The ascendancy of the Scots is only natural, when
we consider (i) the proximity of Orkney to Scotland,
(2) the succession of the Scottish earls since 1206,
(3) the acquisition of the islands by Scotland in 1468,
since when the clergy, officials, and their following
have been Scots, and (4) the population, especially
since the adoption of the English language, has been
mainly recruited from Scotland, while considerable
emigration of the viking element has been constantly
in progress. If the male line of the earls died out in
three centuries, as early as 1206, the same is to be
expected of, at least, the ruling class as well. But there
can be little doubt that there are few in the islands who
do not descend, through the distaff side, from the old
vikings, whose spirit of adventure and colonisation they
have so well maintained in all the British colonies.
. O.Z.. 101.
Orkney and Shetland Historical Notes. 263
AUTHORITIES REFERRED TO IN THE
Page references are to this volume.
D.N. Diplomatarium Norvegicum quoted by vol. and page.
N.G.L. Norges Gamle Love.
Orkn. Orkneyinga Saga, Rolls Series of Icelandic Sagas, vols. 1 , III.,
text and translation. As the translation contains additional text,
it is referred to by page ; but the text is used as the authority, as
the translation is imperfect. In the Introduction this saga is
referred to as " the saga."
Hak. S. Hakonar Saga, Rolls Series of Icelandic Sagas, vols. II., IV.,
text and translation. The translation is cited by page but the text
is founded on.
Opp. O.Z. Oppressions of the Sixteenth Century in the islands of Orkney
and Zetland; from the original documents. Edited by colonel
David Balfour, of Balfour, for the Maitland Club, Edinburgh, 1859.
Heimskringla. Saga Library, vols. 3-6.
Sverr. S. Sverrissaga. Northern Library, Vol. IV. Translated by the
Rev. J. Sephton, London, 1899.
O.T. Saga of king Olaf Tryggvason. Northern Library, vol. I. Trans-
lated by the Rev. J. Sephton, London. 1895.
Ud. N.H. Udsigt over den Norske rets historic, by professor Absalon
Taranger, 2 vols. Christiania, 1898, 1904.
Dr. Jakob Jakobsen's works referred to are: Det Norr0ne sprog
pa Shetland, K0benhavn, 1897. Shetlands0ernes stednavne,
K0benhavn, 1901. Etymologisk ordbog over de Norr0ne sprog
pa Shetland, a sju. K0benhavn, 1908, 1909, 1912.
The dialect and placenames of Shetland, Lerwick, 1897.
Nordisk minder, isaer sproglige pa Orkn0erne. Svensha LandsmMen,
P.R. Rentals of the ancient earldom and bishopric of Orkney. Edited
by Alexander Peterkin, 1820.
O.S.R. Orkney and Shetland Records, Viking Society, Vol. I.,
completed ; quoted by page.
Explanations of terms have been taken from Cleasby's Icelandic-English
Dictionary, Fritzner's Ordbog over det gamle Norske sprog, and the
Gloss irium to N.G.L.
TEMPLE- ADMINISTRATION AND
CHIEFTAINSHIP IN PRE-CHRISTIAN
NORWAY AND ICELAND.
BY BERTHA S. PHILLPOTTS, M.A.
THE union of priestly functions and political power
exemplified in the position of the goftar in pre-
Christian Iceland is a matter on which all
scholars agree, and it is generally admitted that, to
some extent at least, the political power of this class
in Iceland developed as a result of temple-adminis-
It is with regard to Norway that views diverge.
Were the Norwegian emigrants who came to settle in
Iceland accustomed to see political and religious
administration combined in one office, and, if so, who
were the persons in Norway who wielded this combined
The older Norwegian historians, Keyser, 1 Munch, 2
and Sars, 3 all held that the Icelandic constitution must
have developed on Norwegian lines, and that the Nor-
wegian prototypes of the go&ar are the petty kings, jarls,
and chiefs (hersar), who, as they maintained, must have
combined priestly functions with their administrative
activities. Maurer 4 at first supported this view, but on
finding that the word gofti occurred on three Danish
Runic stones, he appears to have modified his opinion/
and came to the conclusion that goftar, and occasionally
1 R. Keyser, Efterladte Skrifter, ii., i, pp. 6, 23.
2 P. A. Munch, Det Norske Folks Historic, i., i, pp. 151 ff.
S J. E. Sars, Udsigt over den norske Historic, i. 220.
4 K. Maurer, Die Entstehung des islandischen Staates, p. 98 ff.
5 K. Maurer, Zur Urgeschichte der Godenwiirde, Z.f.d. Phil. iv.
p. 127 ff.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 265
gy&jur, priestesses, exercised priestly functions in
Norway and Denmark, but in entire dependence on the
chiefs or kings to whom they were attached, and on
whose behalf they officiated. He also admits that
private temples may have existed in Norway, and sug-
gests that the owners of these might also have been
goftar. V. Finsen, 1 on the other hand, fails to see any
indication of a connection between the chiefs and the
temple-administration in Norway, and maintains that
the goftar, as an independent class of priests, had
existed from early times among all Northern peoples,
and that the survival of the title in Iceland alone is
merely due to the circumstance that there alone did the
priests come to play any important part in political life.
Later writers 2 on Northern religion, including Mogk,
incline to Maurer's later view, but always basing their
opinion mainly on the evidence adduced by him, which
Finsen, rightly enough, considered insufficient.
The present essay is due to the writer's conviction
that there is room for a more detailed study of the ques-
tion. The evidence vouchsafed by our sources, though
meagre and scrappy in the extreme, does yet seem
capable, when collected, of somewhat more exploitation
than has hitherto fallen to its lot. A systematic review
of all the available items of information may bring us
a little nearer to certainty as regards the main question
at issue, and may further throw light on some other
It will be best to begin our review of the evidence
by considering all that we can glean concerning Nor-
wegian temples and their management. If we begin
with the south, the prehistoric temple at Skiringssalr
1 Om den oprindelig Ordning af nogle af den islandske Fristats
Institutioner, p. 56 ff.
2 Herrmann, Nordische Mythologie ; Mogk, Mythologie 89 (in
Paul's Grundriss Hi., 399). Golther, Handbuch zur germ. Myth.
(p. 610-12) appears to hold Maurer's earlier view.
266 Saga-Book of the ] r iking Society.
is the first to be dealt with. Ski'ringssalr ' is generally
considered to have comprised the modern district
of Tj011ing, east of Larvik, in the ancient kingdom of
Vestfold, and to have taken its name from a temple
(Skirings-salr) supposed to be in the immediate neigh-
bourhood of a royal residence. Sacrifice at Skirings-
salr is mentioned in the Sogubrot af Fornkonungum, 2
and in the extracts of its lost continuation as preserved
by Arngnmr Jonsson. 3 The former breaks off with the
words : " Then sacrifices were held at Skiringssalr, to
which people flocked from all the ' vik.' ' Arn-
grimr continues the story, telling us that King Sigurd
Ring, who seems to have owned lands in these regions,
though he was probably of Danish origin, turned aside
"in Vickiam Norvegiae provinciam ad facienda sacra
ethnica in Sciringssal, quae solennia ibi erant," and
there sees Alfsol, 4 the daughter of King Alfr of Vend-
syssel in Denmark. Skiringssalr was thus evidently of
more than tribal importance as a religious as well as a
mercantile centre, but all that we can glean for our
purpose is that the temple was to some extent under
the patronage of the Vestfold kings. However, as far
Norwegian custom of that date is concerned, the Skir-
ingssalr evidence is not really conclusive, since these
Vestfold kings were not Norwegian in origin, but
claimed descent from the Yngling kings of Upsala, and
these were certainly regarded as the chief priests of the
people. Other evidence for the connection of Nor-
wegian royalty with temples, not so good in itself,
but not open to that particular objection, is furnished
by the Fornaldar Sogur. Thus FriSjof's Saga tells us
1 G. Storm, Skiringssal og Sandefjord, Hist. Tidskr. Raekke iv.. Bd. i.,
1901, p. 214 ff. Also A. Kjaer: Hvad var Ski'ringssalr, Bd. v. (1908).
2 Ch. x. (F.A.S., i., 363-88).
3 Printed in Aarb. f.n. Oldk. 1894, p. 131 ff.
4 A kenning containing the word vtbraut, and applied to Harald
Fairhair, has been quoted as evidence that he was protector of the
temple. But it seems that the kenning has no such significance, cp.
F. Jonsson, Heimskringla iv., p. 28.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 267
of a King Beli of Sogn, who lives close to Baldrshagi,
a great temple, and later on it tells us that his sons,
who had succeeded to the kingdom, sacrificed there.
And Hervarar Saga knows of a disablot, a sacrifice to
the disir, at one King Alfr's.
\Ve can now proceed to Vors. Vors or Voss was the
name both of a district in South HorSaland, and of a
homestead in that district. The fact that we hear of at
least one Thing 1 held at the farm Vors suggests that
it was the centre of the district, and that it had given
its name to the neighbourhood. It seems likely, then,
that it was the residence of the hersir. All w r e know
of sacrifice at Vors is from a statement in Viga-Glum's
Saga, 2 where we are told of a great feast there at the
winter nights, said to be a sacrifice to the disir, at the
temple ( ?) 3 of the hersir Vigfus, in about the year 950.
We next reach Gaular, a district comprising the inner
part of the Dalsfjord, in the region formerly called
Fjalir, in FirSafylki. From various sources 4 we know
that a certain Atli was jarl of Gaular from about 845-
870. This Atli joins King Halfdan hinn svarti, and is
made jarl of Sogn by him, and by Harald after him, but
it is clear that he was still jarl of Gaular. 5 Egilssaga *
gives us the following information : " Then (about
868) Atli hinn mjovi was jarl. He lived at Gaular.
... It was a certain autumn that there was a great
gathering at Gaular for an autumn sacrifice." We
further learn that Atli's daughter was present. Atli
was killed about 870,' and his last surviving son,
Hasteinn, must have left the country shortly afterwards,
so we cannot identify the host at the next great sacri-
1 F.M.S., iv., 270 and probably also F.M.S., i., 64.
2 Vgl., ch. 6 (cf. ch. 3)!
s " }>xr var veizla buin at vetrnottum ok gjort disablot ..."
4 Hkr. Half. sv. ch 3, H.h. ch. 12, Fagrsk. ch. i., 2, Flat, i., 562, 570, etc.
5 Fgrsk. 2, bans hafufl bu var a Gaulum. Hkr., Hh. 12. Atli jarl sendi
f>au ord i mot, at hann mun halda Sygnafylki ok sva Gaulum.
6 Eg. 2.
7 So F. Jonsson in his Hkr. ed.. but cp. Vigfusson, Timatal, p. 290.
268 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
fice recorded at Gaular, in the spring of 917,' when we
are told that great numbers from FirSafylki and Fjalir
and Sogn, and most of them important persons,
attended, including J>6rir, hersir of FirSafylki. King
Eirikr Blodox was also present. On this occasion
Egilssaga vouchsafes the further information that there
was a " most splendid chief temple " (hofufthof) there.
But we are fortunate in knowing something more
about Gaular. Landnamabok 2 tells of one I>orbj6rn,
a powerful hersir in Fjalafylki, who was called " enn
gaulverski," the man of Gaular. This I'orbjorn had a
son Flosi, who emigrated to Iceland, after killing three
of Harald's officials, but did not come to Iceland till
late, as is clear from the fact that the other settlers
called him Flosi hinn norrceni, 3 thus revealing that they
already considered themselves Icelanders. So we may
assume that he did not go to Iceland until towards 920
or 930, and therefore his father, I>orbj6rn, may have
lived at Gaular until nearly that date. 4 Now Flosi's
sister, Oddny, also came to Iceland with her son Loptr,
and of this Loptr Landnama relates that he went out
to Norway every third summer on behalf of Flosi and
himself, to sacrifice at that temple which I>orbj6rn, his
mother's father, had had charge of at Gaular. 5 Finsen 6
says (i) that nothing can be deduced from such an
isolated statement, (2) that I>orbj6rn may have had
charge of the temple before he was hersir, (3) that the
verb, varftveita, to have charge of, does not necessarily
imply that he actually officiated. With regard to point
(i), we must remember that it rests on Landnama's
unimpeachable testimony, and that it is exactly the
1 Eg. 49.
2 Ld. Hauksbcik ch. 315, 323, Sturlubok 368. (F. Jonsson's ed. In
the following pages H = Hauksbok, S = Sturlubok).
'Ld. S., 315.
4 Cp. also Timatal, p. 285.
5 Ld. H., 323. Loptr for utan hit iij hvert sumar fyrir bond )>eira Flosa
beggia moSurbroSur sins at biota at hon )>vi er ]>orbiorn moSurfaftir hans
hafdi par var5 veitt a Gaulum. Cp. also Ld. H., 315 ; S., 368.
6 Om den opr. Ord., p. 52.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 269
kind of unexpected statement that bears the stamp of
truth upon it, for it is obvious that it could not be
invented. The second objection is only a suggestion,
and an unlikely one, since it is improbable that I^or-
bjorn's descendants would have gone to such trouble to
keep up sacrificing, if I>orbjorn had only had charge
of the temple in his youth. As regards (3) we find that
the verb varftveita is used of Icelandic goftar, having
charge of their temple. 1 Moreover there can be little
doubt that the grandson at any rate actually officiated,
as the word biota (to sacrifice) is used.
We are now faced by several possibilities. Is the
temple at Gaular of which l>orbjorn had charge the
same as the " chief temple " in Gaular mentioned in
Egilssaga, and was it at this same temple that Atli held
his sacrificial feast in about 868 ? It certainly seems
probable that 5?orbjorn had had charge of a chief
temple, for his descendants would hardly have thought
it worth while to return to sacrifice at a mere private
temple. Moreover, if it had only been a private temple,
there would have been no reason why Flosi or Loptr
should not have removed it, or its most sacred parts,
to Iceland, as we know was done with a considerable
number of temples. Of course, Atli may have had
another temple : the only difficulty in such a supposi-
tion is that there should be two, presumably important,
temples in so small a district as Gaular. Perhaps :Eorb-
jorn only took over the charge of the temple after the
death of Atli in 870. But there is nothing inherently-
impossible in a jarl and a hersir sharing a temple, at
any rate, if any credit can be given to Xjala's statement
with regard to the GuSbrandsdal temple. The fact that
Loptr returns every third summer to sacrifice reminds
us of the story in the late FriSj>jof's Saga, 2 in which a
hersir, I>orbj6rn of Sogn, had a third of the kingdom,
1 Eyrb. 15. Snorri varftveitti l>a hof. Vapn. 5. Steinvor var hofgySja
ok varftveitti hofuShofit.
2 Ch. i.
270 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
and made a great feast for the King of Sygnafylki
every third year. It is just possible that torbjorn (or
his predecessor) and Atli, and perhaps another hersir,
took it in turns to hold the sacrificial feasts. We know
that the chiefs of the Inner 3>randheimr district took
over the charge of the sacrifices in turns. However
this may be, we have at least seen that a hersir certainlv,
and possibly a jarl, actually officiated in a chief temple
in Gaular. We are unfortunately unable to tell whether
the King AuSbjorn of FirSafylki ever played any part
in this chief temple.
We now pass on to the temple in GuSbrandsdal,
where a hersir line ruled from the time of King Halfdan
hinn svarti (or earlier) till the reign of St. Olaf. Njala '
tells us that the hersir Guftbrandr of Jarl Hakon's day
(up to 995) was a great friend of that ruler, that the
two shared a temple together, the second largest in
Norway, which Njala declares was only opened when
the jarl came thither. This last is usually regarded as
a more than doubtful statement. We hear of the temple
again in Heimskringla. 2 In 1022, when St. Olaf was
engaged in forcibly Christianizing the neighbouring
districts, the hersir GuSbrandr is said to have cut up
the war-arrow and summoned all the inhabitants to a
small village called HundJ?orp. We are told that
enormous numbers of men attended. GuSbrandr then
makes a speech, in which he refers to " our " temple,
and to the image of Thorr in it, " which has always
aided us." We may discount the historical accuracy
of the speech, but it is clear from Snorri's description
that he regarded the temple as the main place of worship
for the whole neighbourhood. 3
iCh. 87. 2 Hkr. O.h. 112. Cp. Flat, ii., p. 189.
3 Dr. A. C. Bang, " Om Dale-Gudbrand," 1897, casts doubt on the
whole story and even on the existence of GuSbrandr as being a "local
legend" (en paa Lokalsagn bygget Legende), but recent researches in
many districts seem to reveal a greater substratum of truth in local
tradition than has been hitherto admitted. See Gomme, Folklore as a
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 271
So far we gain the impression that a hersir admin-
isters this temple also, especially as GuSbrand builds
a church in the Dales after conversion. At one time
he may have shared the control of it with a jarl. But
the warlike gathering at Hundj>orp is next addressed
by a 3?6rSr istrumagi, and in one good MS. 1 of the
Heimskringla version he is called hofgofii, temple-
priest of the Dalesmen. In the other MS. used for
this passage the reading is hofSingi, chief, and so in
all other versions of the story. One cannot help feeling
that it is much more likely that hofftingi, a word of
frequent occurrence in the Norwegian histories, should
have been substituted for hofgofti, which is rare even
in Icelandic sagas, and not again met with in Heims-
kringla (except in Ynglingasaga) than that the reverse
error should have been made. 2 Moreover, hof&ingi
would need some further explanation, since it is obvious
that GuSbrandr himself was " hofSingi " over the
We now arrive at the largest temple in Norway/ that
at HlaSir in Strindafylki. The first we hear of HlaSir
is that somewhere about 867 or 868 Haraldr established
a " chief residence " there, and called it his home. 4
Haraldr had made the Jarl Hakon Grjotgarbsson, of
Yrjar (on the north side of the fjord), Jarl over Strinda-
fylki about the year 866, and soon we find Hakon called
HlaKfl-jarl, and we hear of his entertaining Haraldr at
In 943, we find Earl Siguror, called HlaSa-jarl like
his father, entertaining King Hakon to a Yule-feast
(i.e., sacrificial feast), and we are told that SigurSr was
1 Cp. Hkr. (Finnur Jonsson's ed.). Indledning. pp. xxiv.-xxvi., and
8 An Icelandic scribe could the more easily have made the error, as he
was in the habit of considering gofti almost synonymous with
*Odds O.T. 17 (F.M.S. x., 265), vj. 87.
<Hkr. Hh. 9.
5 Fgrsk. 2.
272 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
a great sacrificer, 1 and that he kept up all sacrificial
feasts in S>randheimr on behalf of the king. If this
phrase means anything, the king, if present, was
expected to preside over, or perhaps officiate at, sacri-
ficial feasts. Of course, Hakon, as a Christian, would
refuse to do this in any case.
We are next told, apparently a propos of another
feast, 2 that SigurSr was the most generous of men, and
did a famous deed in giving a great feast at HlaSir and
meeting all expenses himself. We must suppose that
he usually provided the horses and cattle for sacrifice,
but that the extra expense he incurred on this occasion
was in supplying the food and drink, which we are told
the worshippers usually brought with them. The third
feast 3 at HlaSir mentioned in our sources was in the
autumn of 952. The king comes to it, and is made to
sit in the high-seat at the feast, instead of remaining
apart as he had hitherto done.
The last great Norwegian temple of which we have
record is that at Masri or Maerin (now Maere), an impor-
tant homestead (later on a royal demesne) in Spar-
byggjafylki. The administration of this temple is
unique, but we must begin by premising that there had
been a jarl of the district of Sparabii 1 in the 8th century,
and that he had fled to Jamtaland before a conquering
King Eysteinn, perhaps about 780. Snorri tells us that
there was a king 5 of this fylki until he fell in battle
before Haraldr harfagri in 866. Now Maeri is undoubt-
edly the chief place in the fylki, so we may assume that
either the jarls, or Snorri's somewhat apocryphal king,
had lived there.
The first we hear of a temple at Masri is from
Landnamabok, which relates as follows 6 : " l>orhaddr
the Old was temple-priest (hofgofti] in t>randheimr at
1 Hkr. H.g. 14. The Jarl is called ves vagi-valdr in a verse: "the
protecting custodian of the sanctuary," cp. Hkr. vol. iv , p. 49.
2 Hkr. H.g. 14. Ch. 17.
4 Hkr. H.g. 12. O.h. 137. Hkr. H.h. 7.
6 Ld. Hauksbok, ch. 258; Sturlubok, ch. 297.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 273
Maeri. He wished to go to Iceland, and took the
temple down first, and had with him the soil of the
temple and the pillars. He landed in StoSvarfjorS and
laid the Masri sanctity over the whole fjord, and allowed
nothing to be killed there but the home cattle." This
is the only hofgoSi mentioned in Norway besides
I>6r5r istrumagi in GuSbrandsdal. We note that the
temple appears to be Thorhadd's private property,
since he can unbuild it and remove its sacred pillars.
After thus learning that the Masri temple had been
partly demolished by a private owner, we are somewhat
startled, when we next hear of it, to find that it is a
" chief temple " (hofuS hof), 1 and that eight chiefs, who
had most of the management of sacrifices in all Prand-
heimr, are making preparations to entertain King
Hakon there at a Yule sacrifice, 2 only a few months
after that king had been an unwilling guest at HlaSir
(in 952). Four of these chiefs, we are told, are from
Inner I>randheimr, and four from Outer I>randheimr.
Their names are given, and we note that each is a lead-
ing landowner representing one of the eight fylki which
compose 3?randheimr. These landowners force the
luckless king to drink the toasts and eat the sacrificial
We read again 3 of preparations for a sacrifice at
Masri, but this was less of a triumph for the heathen
chiefs " who had hitherto kept up the sacrifices 4 at that
place." In 998 Olaf Tryggvason agrees with the
trandheimr heathens that there shall be a -great mid-
summer sacrifice at Maeri, but shortly before it is due
he invites everyone to a feast at HlaSiir, and suggests
sacrificing twelve chief men. He mentions seven
names, of which four 5 are the same as those of the
Inner I>randheimr farmers mentioned above. Finally
ip.M.S. x., 323.
a Hkr. H.g. 18.
3 Hkr. O.T. 67, 68, 69. Flat, i., p. 319.
4 Flat, i., p. 319 " hofuSblotum."
5 In one case the son.
274 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
he enters their temple and throws down the statue of
Thorr. We are not told that he destroys the temple,
though it seems probable that -he would do so. 1
In the reign of St. Olaf it transpires that the Inner
f>randheimr fylki still form a religious confederacy, 2
and that twelve men manage the sacrificial feasts,
apparently in turn. St. Olaf surprises them in flag-
rante delicto, and there is an abrupt end to public sacri-
fices in Norway.
It seems as if there could be but one likely explana-
tion of the successive administrations of this temple.
We must suppose that (i) a jarl or king lived at Maeri,
and administered a temple, deputing his functions to
a hofgofti, as in the GuSbrandsdal case, (2) on the
departure or death of the king or jarl the hofgofti con-
tinued his functions until he went to Iceland, taking
parts of his temple with him, and (3) after his departure
the leading men of the whole of I>randheimr took over
the temple, and confided the care of it to eight men,
one from each fylki.
We must admit that there is very strong evidence
that temple administration in Norway is very closely
bound up with chieftainship. Skiringssalr in the south
is under the patronage of the Vestfold kings. The great
temple in the north, the largest in Norway, is situated
at HlaSir, King Harald Fairhair's self-chosen royal
residence. The temple at Gaular is closely connected
with a jarl and afterwards with a her sir ; that at Gu5-
brandsdal with a her sir and traditionally with a jarl.
The temple at HlaSir is obviously kept up by a jarl,
though out of originally royal estates. That at Maeri is
administered by the chief men of the district.
The voice of tradition is not quite so clear as regards
our second point, the exercise of priestly functions in
1 When, later on, one of the leaders is charged by St. Olaf with
sacrifices there, he urges that the buildings are large "hus eru stor,"
Hkr. O.h., 108.
2 Hkr. O.h., 108, 109.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 275
the temple. There is a very independent temple-priest
at Masri, and probably another, less independent, in
GuSbrandsdal. But otherwise we find the jarl SigurSr
himself officiating at HlaSir, and the hersir J?orbjorn
at Gaular. One of the Fornaldar Sogur shows us kings
officiating at Baldrshagi. With regard to this point,
the actual exercise of priestly functions by chiefs, it
may be urged that the evidence just quoted comes
through Iceland, and is open to the suspicion of having
been affected by Icelandic ideas, since the Icelandic
historians were themselves used to the idea that priestly
functions and political power w^ent hand in hand. But,
fortunately, there is some entirely independent and
more or less contemporary evidence on this point. The
Irish annals tell us that in 841 the Viking " king "
Turges took up his abode in Armagh, the holiest place
in Erin, and turned the cathedral into a heathen temple,
in which he himself officiated as priest. I think this
must be accepted as conclusive evidence for the priestly
functions of Scandinavian chiefs. I cannot, however,
accept it as conclusive evidence for the priestly func-
tions of kings, as I find it difficult to credit Turges with
royal blood owing to his name. Whether it represents
Thorgils or Thorgestr, it is certainly compounded with
Thor, and would be unique for that reason in any
Scandinavian royal family.
One point is worthy of notice. From some of the
genealogies l we observe that the jarls and hersar (and
1 The following genealogy may serve as an illustration. It can be
deduced from various passages in Landnama.
hersir or Sogni
Bjorn buna = Velaug Vemundr hersir
Ketill veSr hersir of Hringariki. hersir or Sogni
Yngvildr = Ketill Flatnefr hersir. Hrappr = porunn = Ulfarr
porbjorn gaulverski = Hildr
Oxidnf = Ormr
276 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
to some extent the petty kings) must have formed an
almost national Norwegian aristocracy, united by ties
of blood. The interests of members of this aristocracy
must have far outstripped the narrow limits of the petty
kingdom to which the individual belonged. Now we
have seen that the great sacrificial feasts were occasions
for the chief connected with the temple, whether hersir
or jarl, to entertain his friends and kinsmen. Such
feasts were no doubt the cause of the rise of certain
fylki temples to intertribal eminence. It may well be
that this degree of religious union l preceded and fos-
tered political union between the petty states, and
made it possible to establish the common Things which
seem to have been in existence before the time of
Harald Hairfair. This must be my justification for
taking up so much of your time in marshalling evi-
dence. The connection between temple-administration
and chieftainship is important not only in itself, but
because, once it is established, public religious observ-
ances are indissolubly linked with an aristocracy which
forms a network extending far beyond the boundaries
of each little kingdom. To discuss the effect of this
intertribal aristocracy in neutralizing separatist tenden-
cies in religion lies outside the scope of this paper, but
we must realize its probable effects in neutralizing
separatist tendencies in politics. The fact that temple-
administration was vested in chiefs may thus have been
a very important factor in the unification of the
The results of our examination of the Norwegian
evidence will have shown us the importance of noting
the ancestry of the temple builders, the founders of
goSi-families, among the settlers. The discovery that
any large proportion of them were of hersir descent
1 The existence of such intertribal religious unions is proved for a
much earlier epoch by Tacitus' account of the common worship of
Nerthus, by seven tribes, probably in Sjselland.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 277
would show that the identity of the temple owner and
the chief was, at any rate, partially due to Norwegian
tradition. We therefore proceed to adduce instances.
The hersir BoSvarr of Vors (brother of the hersir
Vigfiis already mentioned) settles in Iceland, builds a
temple, and becomes a hofgofti; 1 Ketill haengr, 2 son
of an earl of Naumudal, called dgicetr by Landnama,
settles at Hof 3 in Rangarvellir ; Jorundr gofti, 4 son of
Hrafn hinn heimski, and eighth in descent from King
Haraldr hilditonn, builds a temple; Ketilbjorn 5 of
Naumudal, called dgicetr by Landnama, which uses the
word as equivalent to "of hersir (or jarl) birth,"
settles at Mosfell and has a temple : HofSa-^orSr/
dgicetr, and said to be descended from Ragnar Lo8-
brok, dwells at Hof in HofSastrond, and is the ancestor
of a line of goftar; Helgi bjola, 8 son of the hersir Ketill
flatnefr, dwells at another Hof (apparently in spite of
being a Christian in name); Eirikr, 9 dgicetr, settles at
Hof in GoSdalir and is counted among the foremost
settlers; Ingimundr 10 hinn gamli, son of the exiled
]?orsteinn, son of the hersir Ketill raumr, dwells at Hot
in Vatnsdal and has a temple. The two sons of
Asbjorn, son of the hersir Heyjangrs-Bjorn of Sogn,
Vej)ormr " and Ozurr, 11 come to Iceland, and must
clearly have had a temple, since Vej'ormr's daughter
is called hofgyftja, and Ozurr's son Freysgofti. Another
Icelandic hofgyftja, frorlauj:, 12 is descended on her
mother's side, if not on her father's, from hersar. Then
1 Flat. i. 249 ; cp. Vgl. 5, Ld. i., 338 ; ii., 385.
2 Ld. H. 303, S. 344. (Only the main references are given.;
8 Hof always means "Temple" in Iceland.
*Ld. H. 305, S. 346.
5 Ld. H. 338 ; S. 385 ; his mother was daughter of an earl.
6 See Cleasby and Vigfusson Diet., sub. agcetr.
7 Ld. H. 175, etc.
8Ld. H. r 4 ; S. 14.
9 Ld. H. 163.
10 Ld. H. 145; Vats. 17.
Ld. H. 276; S. 316.
12 Ld. H. 29.
278 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
there is 3?6rSr skeggi, 1 son of Hrappr (called dgicetr),
son of the famous hersir Bjorn buna. J?6rSr brought
his temple pillars from Norway, as did also Hrollaugr, 2
son of the Jarl Rognvaldr (and half-brother of Gongu-
Hrolfr of Normandy). We may further note torgrimr
go8i Kjallaksson 3 of Bjarnarhofn, who is of hersir
lineage on both sides. This is far from an exhaustive
list, but in view of the difficulty of ascertaining who
built temples on arriving in Iceland, and the second
difficulty of discovering the genealogy of those who
did, we have mentioned enough cases to show that just
as hersar and jarls had temples in Norway, so a very
large proportion of the more important temples in Ice-
land were built by descendants of hersar and jarls. On
the other hand some few settlers of hersir rank appear
not to have built temples, unless we are to suppose that
their descendants lost the ownership of them. And
again, other temple-builders are not stated to have been
of hersir rank, though of course it is impossible to
prove a humbler origin for them. i>6rolfr mostrar-
skegg, 4 who brought his temple-pillars with him from
Norway, and is supposed to have founded the first \>ing,
is sometimes quoted as being of less exalted rank, but
the assumption seems somewhat rash, especially as he
is called the foremost man 5 on the island of Mostr,
his Norwegian home. On the w r hole it seems safe to
assume that temple-builders, if not always of hersir
lineage, had at any rate been men of importance in
Norway. Of course we must make some allowance for
opportunities of rising afforded by the conditions of
life in a new country.
If we have established that the early goftar in Ice-
land came of a powerful governing class, it seems
worth while to enquire whether the possesion of a
temple was quite such an essential factor in the acquire-
ment of temporal power as it is usually held to have
J Ld. H. 14. 2Ld. H. 270. 3 Ld. H .72.
4 Ld. H. 73. 5 Eyrb. 3
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 279
been. That the possession of a temple finally came to
be a necessary qualification for a legal chieftainship
we do not deny, but there seems reason to suspect that
chiefs could rule }>ingmenn and hold sway over a dis-
trict without it. That this was the case in the actual
period of settlement there can be no doubt. For
instance, AuSr djupuSga, 1 though a Christian, exer-
cised at least as much influence in her district as any
temple-owning heathen. Of course it is true that her
neighbours were mainly dependents and nominally
Christians, but Ketill fiflski, 2 another Christian, who
settled in a district entirely heathen as far as Norwegian
immigrants were concerned, is yet reckoned among the
foremost settlers in the East country. Another case is
that of Ulfr h. skalgi,* fourth in descent from a king.
He comes to Iceland and settles in Reykjanes. With
him comes out a man named Hallr, of high birth, who
built a temple " because Ulfr was no sacrificer." We
are then told that Hallr was a great chief, and many
men then turned their allegiance to him (i.e., away
from Ulfr). It is thus clearly implied that Ulfr, though
not a gofti, had a chieftainship. But there are clearer
instances than this. We know that Hrafnkell Freys-
goSi, on hearing of the destruction of his temple by
Samr, decided that it was " vanity to believe in gods,"
and never sacrificed again, 4 nor had he a temple in his
new surroundings, yet he gathers together }>ingmenn,
and soon has a regular }>inghd or district, and his sons
take on the raawwa/orrdS, 5 chieftainship, after him. Now
Samr, the travelled atheist who destroys the temple,
cannot by any possibility be supposed to have charge
of one, yet even without the prestige which we may
suppose Hrafnkell to have retained, he also gains
mannaforrdft. This occurs as late as about 947-953. 6
iLaxd.6,7. 2 Ld. H., 354. 3 f>orsk. i. ^Hrafnk. 7.
6 Hrafnk. 10. The fact that Hrafnkell is said to have a goftorti, ch. 9,
can be explained by the later meaning of the word, chieftainship.
6 Timatal, p. 495.
280 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
It must be remembered that Hrafnkels Saga is remark-
ably trustworthy. Unfortunately this cannot be so
unreservedly stated of the next saga from which we
will quote, Vatnsdada, but the incident in question is
so circumstantially related, and so much opposed to
what the actual writer of the saga would consider prob-
able, that it is certainly to be credited. On the death
of Ingimundr J his sons decide that whichever of them
shall make a successful plan to avenge him shall choose
some valuable part of their property for himself. Por-
steinn is successful, and he chooses the homestead of
Hof and the land that goes with it. The brothers then
shared up the rest of their inheritance, and the go$or&
fell to 1?6rir's share. But I>orsteinn became chief (hof-
Singi) over Vatnsdal and Vestrh6p and all those
districts which had owned allegiance to Ingimundr, his
father. 2 Finally, in return for good advice given by
him to Ponr, i>orsteinn begs that his sons may have
the ^oSorS. All this takes place between c. 935-950.*
It is here made perfectly clear that the goftorft, i.e.,
priesthood, was distinct from the chieftainship.
At last we see the reason for the constantly used com-
bination : goftorft ok mannaforrdft. In earlier Icelandic
usage these words are not synonymous, as the
dictionaries would lead one to suppose, and their his-
tory is extremely different. GoSorS is an ancient word :
mannaforrdft is a new word, coined in Iceland to express
the type of political and administrative power exercised
by Icelandic chiefs. GoSorft meant priesthood, and
nothing more, when the Icelanders first settled in the
new country : indeed, it may be doubted whether ihe
meanings of these two words were ever merged into
one until after the introduction of Christianity.
It is possible that the revised law of 965, restricting
the number of goSar, was partly aimed against chiefs
whose authority was solely temporal. Such chieftain-
ships would have no guarantee of stability, since they
1 Vats. ch. 24, 27. ' 2 Vats. ch. 37. 8 Timatal, p. 495.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 281
would lack all tangible sign of union. Now Professor
Bjorn Olsen has suggested that the ready acceptance
of Christianity in the year 1000 is partly to be ascribed
to the agitations and discontent of ex-^oo'ar or their
sons, who had been dispossessed of chieftainship by
the law of 965. It seems more than probable that the
ranks of these " outsiders " were swelled by families
who had exercised chieftainship without possessing a
temple, or who had allowed their temple to descend to
another branch of the family.
And this seems the place to consider such informa-
tion as we can glean about gyftjur, priestesses. We
are told of one Steinvor in the east of Iceland that she
was hofgyfy'a, and had charge of the chief temple. She
complained to the local chief, Broddhelgi, whose kins-
woman she was, that a certan man, a Christian, had
refused to pay the temple-tax. Broddhelgi said he
would deal with the matter, but as a matter of fact it
was allowed to drop. 1 Here we note (i) that Steinvor
is a relative of Broddhelgi, and (2) therefore belongs
to a distinguished family, and (3) her sphere is entirely
limited to temple-jurisdiction. We know of three other
well-attested gyftjur in Iceland, 2 of whom two at least
are of hersir family. How entirely one of these, Thor-
laug, daughter of Hrolf the younger, must have been
identified with the priestly office seems to follow from
certain words in Landnama which have hardly received
the attention they deserve. " Hrolf r the younger
married his daughter, J?orlaug gyfija, to Oddi
Yrarson. For that reason he moved house west to
Ballara, and dwelt there a long while, and was called
Hrolf at Ballara." 3 Evidently his daughter, the
priestess, could not move to her husband's house, as
she could not leave the temple. The other two
iVapn., ch. 5.
2 f>uriSr gySja Solmundardottir (Ld. H. 147) ; furiSr hofgySja Ve>orms-
dottir (Ld. H. 276) and >orlaug gyftja Hrolfsdotta (Ld. H. 29).
s Ld. H. 29, S. 41, )>ui reSzt hann vestr til Ballarar.
282 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
gyftjur are 5>uridr gyfya Solmundardottir
J>uriSr hofgyfija VeJ'ormsdottir. Besides this, FriS-
gerSr, the wife of torarinn fylsenni, sacrifices in a
temple, at any rate during his absence, and is called
gyftja in a verse. 1 It seems probable that in all these
cases some male kinsman or the husband had manna-
/orrdo', chieftainship. The case of I?6rarinn fylsenni,
just at the close of the tenth century, suggests that even
after the revised law of 965 mannaforrdft could still be
held apart from priestly office, if the latter was in the
hands of a kinswoman. We can quite understand that
there would be less danger in the separation of the two
offices, if the priestly functions were performed by a
woman, who would be precluded from winning a real
political ascendancy. The mention of four gyftjur in
those of our sources which deal with the heathen period
seems to suggest that they were a fairly large class.
We are thus rendered less sceptical of the Norwegian
gyfijiir mentioned in the Fornaldarsogur, and can
credit the story of Alfhildr, to whom we are introduced
while she is performing a sacrifice at night. The case
of Turges' wife, who acts as priestess at Clonmacnois,
may also be remembered. But in considering priest-
esses it must be admitted to be possible, and even
probable, that we must set very definite limits to their
activities and prevalence at the close of heathen times.
There seems to be reason for suspecting that women
only performed functions as priestesses in the service
of the group of divinities, Njoror, Freyja, and Frey,
and in dmr-worship, which may possibly be a cult of
ancestors. We know of so few gyftjur that it is surely
of importance to note what a large proportion of them
are connected with these cults. To begin with the
Elder Edda. HyndluljoS mentions the gyftja Hledis,
the mother of that Ottarr who builds a hbrg for Freyja
and sacrifices to her. Then there is the story told in
the saga of Olaf Tryggvason, in the Flateyjarb6k ver-
iRristni S. ch. 2.
Temple Administration in Norway and Iceland. 283
sion, ch. 173, where Gunnarr helmingr meets the
priestess of Frey in Sweden. Again, Hervarar Saga
shows us Alfhildr reddening a horg at night. Now
all the references we possess to this form of sanctuary
show that in Norway it was dedicated to the Vanir
to Frey or Freyja. Then we have J>uriSr hofgyftja in
Iceland, whose maternal half-brother (and first cousin
on the father's side), is called Freysgofti, which at any
rate suggests that the family was addicted to the wor-
ship of this god. It is thus fully possible that while
both men and women might be priests or priestesses
of Frey or Freyja, in late heathen times women were
excluded from public office in the service of Thor. We
must note that the temples of two hofgoftar mentioned
in Norway, at Masri and at GuSbrandsdal, are both
traditionally associated with Thor. 1
To sum up. There is reason to believe that besides
the persons exercising combined priestly and political
power, there were in Iceland three other classes of chiefs,
at least until 965. (i) Persons like Hrafnkell Freys-
goSi, exercising political ascendancy in entire indepen-
dence of a temple. (2) Persons like l^orsteinn Ingi-
mundarson, who exercised political ascendancy, but in
whose family the priestly office had fallen to another of
the co-heirs. (3) Persons like Broddhelgi, or Hrolfr the
Younger, who exercised political ascendancy, but whose
temple was in the hands of a kinswoman.
In Iceland, where there was at first no other bond
to attract dependents, and where at first no settled
thing-places brought people together independently of
the sacrificial feasts, the temple must have loomed large
in the public eye, and we can understand that those who
succeeded in consolidating their power were those who
possessed and administered this central meeting-place,
and who, further, did not have to delegate to others
1 Olaf. Tryggvason throws down the statue of |>6rr at Maeri, Hkr.
O.T. 69. In the GuSbrandsdal temple is the image of J>6rr " which has
always aided us." Hkr. O.h. u?..
284 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
the observances that gave their acts a religious sanction.
Hence the final success of the temple-owners in the
race for power. And here we must be allowed to enter
a protest against the view, recently repeated both in
German and English books, that the mass of the Ice-
landic settlers were half-Christian, wholly atheistic, or
sunk in special and degrading superstitions. The inci-
dental mention of a couple of " godless " men, or the
supposition that heathendom must have been sapped by
a Viking life, can weigh as nothing against the fact
that the communal religious feeling in Iceland was so
strong that it shaped the whole political and adminis-
trative structure. Chieftainships not connected with
temples were fore-doomed to extinction.
Indeed, if one may be permitted to conclude with a
generalization, one of the most remarkable things about
early Scandinavian history is the constitutional import-
ance of religion among a people so entirely lacking in
a priestly caste. We understand and are ready to make
allowances for the vast power wielded by the Druids
among the Celtic peoples, but the absence of priestcraft
among the Scandinavians ought not to blind us to the
influences exerted by religion on the social structure.
We have seen reason to suspect that at least twice in
the history of Scandinavia religious union preceded and
fostered political union, and I hope we have also had
a glimpse of how the political fabric of the youngest
of the Scandinavian States was slowly built up on the
basis of its religious organization.
THYRA, THE WIFE OF GORM THE OLD,
WHO WAS SHE, ENGLISH OR DANISH?
BY CAPTAIN ERNEST RASON.
THE lecture which I am to communicate to you
to-night is not by any means intended as a final
settlement of the question, " Thyra, the wife of
Gorm the old, who was she, English or Danish? " It
is, on the contrary, merely an attempt to state the case
in England, to call attention to the issues involved, and
to interest, if possible, other English enquirers.
The lecture is a development of the evidence I have
collected on the subject during research on another
theme, " Russia as the Eldorado of Canute the Great."
The question of Thyra is for me but a side issue, yet
as Denmark came largely into my main work, its his-
tory had to be investigated for a certain period before
Canute's reign. Whilst doing this the so-called Con-
quest of England by the Danes was forced upon my
notice in a manner it had never been before. English
boys are rarely taught their own early history, but
rather that of Greece and Rome. It was with a distinct
feeling of relief that I read in Saxo Grammaticus that
Thyra was the daughter of Ethelred, King of England.
If Thyra were the daughter of Ethelred, King of Eng-
land, then the invasion of Svein and Canute was no
foreign conquest, but merely a dynastic change brought
about by Danish ships and Danish troops, and on the
same principle as the Wars of the Roses, except that
in the latter Welsh and French troops were employed.
When I came to consider the question further I found
that the most recent Danish opinion on the matter was
so divided, that in the Danmarks Riges Historie of 1906
the question is stated as follows : ' ' Some people say
that Thyra was the daughter of an English king, but
286 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
others with more probability that she was the daughter
of Klak Harald, Jarl in Holstein." This statement
seemed to call for examination, certainly from an Eng-
lishman. There is every appearance on the face of it
that it was written in deference to a divided opinion,
although Professor Steenstrup's name is connected with
this particular part of the history.
The elder Danish writers before the end of the six-
teenth century either followed Saxo in his opinion, or
they had some other source for their statement, except
Cornelius Hamsfortii, who calls Thyra the daughter of
Edward the Elder, and sister of the wife of Otto I.,
Emperor of Germany. This, of course, is wrong, but it
points to a general idea that Thyra was the daughter
of an English king.
Besides the old Danish writers, my authorities for
the lecture are the Heimskringla, by Snorre Sturlason,
the Jomsborg Vikings Saga, and the Knytlinga Saga,
perhaps the best and most reliable of the Icelandic
sagas dealing with this particular time. I shall take
the latter part of the the question first, and consider
what the sagas say about Thyra as the daughter of
Klak Harald, Jarl in Holstein.
Carlyle, than whom we have no better judge, said of
the Heimskringla of Snorre Sturlason that it ought to
be reckoned amongst the great history books of the
world, were it properly published with accurate maps
and well edited. This saga was translated into English
as long ago as 1844, and it has recently (1899) been
edited and published anew by Rasmus Anderson, some
time Minister for the United States at the Court of
Kopenhagen. For the Jomsborg and Knytlinga Sagas
I have used Rafn's translation into Danish (1829).
The contention that Thyra was the daughter of Klak
Harald rests almost entirely on the sagas. It was not
heard about at all till towards the end of the sixteenth
century, about 1594, when the sagas were translated for
the first time from Icelandic. The Heimskringla tells
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 287
us that a certain Thorny, the wife of Sigurd Hiortr,
was the sister of Thyra Danmarkarbot, married to King
Gorm the old, who at that time reigned over the Danish
dominions ; this Thyra was the daughter of Klak
Harald. Thorny was the grandmother of Harald Fair-
hair, King of all Norway, and we are told that Harald
was born when his mother, Ragnhild, was twenty
years old. Harald Fairhair died about 930, and suc-
ceeded his father at the age of ten, about 860, so that
his mother, Ragnhild, .must have been born in 830, and
allowing twenty years for Thorny's age when Ragnhild
was born, we get 809 for the birth of Thorny, the sister,
according to the saga, of Thyra. The same saga tells
us that Harald Fairhair, when he was about fifteen
years of age, wishing for a wife, sent a deputation to
Gyda, the daughter of King Erik in HorSaland, but
she refused to come, saying that she would not wed
until she found the man who could reduce all the kings
of Norway as Gorm the old had done in Denmark.
This settles, as far as the saga is concerned, the date
when Gorm had established his paramount power in
Denmark, viz., about 865. It may be observed that
Thyra, the daughter of Ethelred of England, was not
The Jomsborg Saga gives a highly descriptive and
detailed account of the courting of Thyra, the daughter
of Klak Harald, by Gorm. Thyra is said to have been
so wise and intelligent that she was already associated
with her father in the government of his small kingdom,
when Gorm came down from the North of Jutland to
woo her. Gorm had a large party with him, and Thyra
was not ready to give her love at once, nor Harald to
part with her; but Gorm, in the rough and ready
manner of those days, said that if her father would not
give her to him for wife he would take her by force,
which, it appeared, he was quite capable of doing.
Under these circumstances Thyra decided to play with
him by her wiles and wisdom till she was ready for him,
288 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
or perhaps to give her father time to prepare for resist-
ance. Thyra told Gorm he must go home : there he
must have a house built in the forest no larger than to
hold one bed ; on this bed he was to sleep alone for
three nights, and if he dreamt dreams he was to send
her an account of them, so that she might ascertain
whether it would be a happy marriage.
Gorm went to his place in the north, and had a house
constructed out in the forest only large enough to hold
one small bed, in which he slept alone ; but, being a
wise man, he placed a guard of 300 men round the
house in the forest to guard against surprise. Under
these circumstances he dreamt his dreams in peace;
they are somewhat curious, and have a sort of resem-
blance to those of Pharaoh. The first dream was that
he found himself out under the open heaven looking
over all the land of his kingdom. Then the sea seemed
to go back from the land till all the salt water lakes
and fords were dry. Presently he saw three boars come
up out of the sea ; they begged his pardon, and then
they fed on the grass around and went back into the sea.
These boars were white. The second dream was that
three boars came out of the sea, but they were of a red
colour, and had large tusks, and behaved just like the
first three. The third dream was the same, but the
boars were black, and had the largest tusks of all.
When these last boars had gone he heard a mighty
noise, so loud that he thought it must have been heard
over all Denmark, and the sea came back on the land
with awful force. Thyra interpreted these dreams
the three White Boars were three very cold winters,
when there would be much snow, and all the fruits of
the ground would be damaged ; the three Red Boars
were three winters when there would be little snow, and
the three Black Boars signified wars in the land, and
that they all went back into the sea proved that these
troubles would not continue long. The noise of the
sea when it came back on the land again meant that
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 289
mighty men would come on the land with great wars,
and many of his relations would take part. If he had
dreamed this the first night she would not have married
him, but now there would not be so much injury,
because she would give advice which would be pro-
claimed throughout the land.
It seems as if these dreams had been added by some
one who knew the Bible account of the dreams of
Pharaoh and their interpretation. They have been
added by the Christian skalds in their version of the
story as told in Iceland. We at least know from another
account in the saga that at that time Klak Harald was
a heathen, a believer in the old gods and all the super-
stitions attending such a belief. After Gorm and
Thyra had gone back to their homes in the north, Klak
Harald was invited to visit his son-in-law at Yuletide.
He left for the north in time to be at the Yule-feast,
but on the way he saw an apple tree, on which were
small green apples. This was very remarkable for the
season of the year, and on the ground were many larger
apples, arousing great astonishment in Harald and his
followers, so that they turned and went home again.
The next year Harald went north again to the Yule-
feast, invited by his son-in-law, and had almost reached
the Lim-fjord, when something happened to the hounds
he had with him, and this caused him to give up his
visit and go home again. The third year he went north
again, and reached the ferry over the Lim-fjord on the
western side. When he was at the ferry it seemed as
if two waves arose, one from inside the fjord and the
other from outside, they met at the entrance to the fjord,
and then they seemed to turn into blood ; and for the
third time Harald's superstitious fears were aroused,
and he returned home. From the above we can judge,
that as far as the circumstances of the saga are con-
cerned, at the time of his daughter's marriage, and for
three years after, Klak Harald was a heathen, with all
the heathen superstitions. We also know very well
290 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
when Christianity came into his country, for it was
brought by the celebrated St. Anskar in 825. He
established a small church at Ribe on the west coast,
and another celebrated priest became the pastor of the
church, viz., Rembertus. We also learn from German
history when Klak Harald was made a Christian. He
was baptized at Mainz in 826.
From the above history we can calculate that Thyra
must have been married to Gorm about 825, which
would make her birth fall about 806 to 812, and point
her out as about the same age as her sister Thorny, the
wife of Sigurd Hiort.
The same saga tells us that Gorm had two sons,
Canute and Harald, that Harald was much younger
than Canute, and that Canute was brought up chiefly
at the house of his grandfather, Klak Harald, and when
old enough was given a portion of his kingdom to
govern ; this marks Canute down as born some time
before 834, as Klak Harald died in 846, and Canute
must have been twelve years old at least when he was
given a kingdom to govern. This would make him at
least one hundred years old when he was killed in 936.
These three calculations from the side of the Heims-
kringla of the birth of Thorny, from the side of the
Jomsborg Saga of the marriage of Gorm, and from the
story of Canute's being given a portion of the kingdom
to govern, give approximately the same date for the
marriage of Thyra, daughter of Klak Harald, to Gorm,
viz., 825, and for her birth any date from 806 to 812.
Of Canute, we hear that he was killed in England or
Ireland on a Viking cruise, and he left, so far as is
known, but one son, Gold-Harald, who perished in
969. What the age of Harald was we are not told, but
if his father Canute was seventy when he was born,
Gold-Harald must have been about sixty-six at the time
he was killed, and nearly as old as Harald Bluetooth,
Now we will consider the case of Harald Bluetooth.
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 291
We are told in the Jomsborg Saga that he was much
younger than his brother, and there seem to have been
some signs of enmity between them, for we find the
Jomsborg Saga saying that Harald killed Canute,
which cannot be right, yet w r e find from the Heims-
kringla that even if Harald did not kill his brother, he
may be almost considered as an accessory to the death
of Gold-Harald. He was afraid that Gold-Harald
would attempt to fight him for half the land of Den-
mark, and, by an arrangement with Earl Hakon, Gold-
Harald was killed.
If there is one thing certain about Harald Bluetooth
it is his death, which happened within a year on either
side of 986. We have decided that Thyra, the daughter
of Klak Harald, was born not later than 812. Can she
possibly have been the mother of Harald Bluetooth ?
We are told in Medical Jurisprudence that sixty years
is the extreme limit of a woman's powers of bearing
children, though we have the account of Sarah, who
bore Isaac at the age of ninety, which has been a stand-
ing wonder for centuries. We cannot suppose that
Thyra was any exception to the common lot, and there-
fore she cannot have been the mother of Harald Blue-
tooth, whatever her relation to Cnut Danaast may have
We are told in Danmarks Riges' Historic that Thyra
knew from her birth the necessity of building a Dane-
virke, with which the name of Thyra is connected, and
this is considered one of the side proofs that Thyra w r as
the daughter of Klak Harald, as she was brought up
near the Danevirke. But it is evident that she could
not have been the mother of Harald Bluetooth, neither
could she have governed the kingdom in Gorm's old
I think now we have come to the time when we may
say that it is most probable that Thyra the daughter
of Klak Harald, was not the mother of Harald Blue-
292 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
We will now take the case of Thyra as the daughter
of Ethelred, King of England, a fact which Saxo dis-
tinctly states in his history. Here he is in company
with all the old writers of Denmark before the end of
the sixteenth century, except Cornelius Hamsfortii, who
says that Thyra was the daughter of Edward the Elder,
and sister of the wife of Otto I., Emperor of Germany,
which of course is wrong; but Thyra as the daughter
of Ethelred would have been a second cousin of Editha,
Thyra was, of course, a Christian, but there is a
curious story in Saxo of her wishing for dreams as 10
the future before she would give herself up to her hus-
band, and there is a statement that Canute and Harald
went over to England to wrest the kingdom from their
grandfather; but, of course, this is incorrect, as Ethel-
red must have been dead before Gorm even married
Thyra. Yet there is no doubt that Harald and Canute
were in England at different times, and they, or at least
Harald, may have had some idea that he had a claim
on the kingdom.
What history teaches us about the children of
Ethelred is very little; we know from the will of Alfred
the Great that there was a difference over their money
matters between the two brothers, and it was finally
agreed that all the money should go to the survivor
unless the other had left a will. Ethelred died first,
and somewhat suddenly, without making a will, and
Alfred took all the money to himself, leaving in his
will only seven small manors to his nephews, Athel-
maer and Ethelwold, and six manors between his
daughters; but he stated that he only left to the spindle
side what had belonged to him and Ethelred, and not
what had been left by his father. This may be a reason
why no mention is made of any daughter of Ethelred
in the will. In the time of Alfred, when a younger
brother was made king in consequence of the youth
of his elder brother's children, as Alfred the Great was,
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 293
then it was usual for the elder brother's children, if
they were grown up, to inherit the kingdom after their
uncle, and not the younger brother's children. But
King Alfred, having all the money and all the power,
managed that his own son, Edward the Elder, should
succeed him, to the detriment of Ethelred's children.
Ethelwold, the youngest of the two sons of Ethelred
mentioned in the will, did attempt to establish his prior
right to the throne, in which he was assisted by the
Normans and Danes of East Anglia and North-
umberland. It must be remembered that the North of
England north of Watling Street was almost entirely
Danish at this time, and it was the Danes who backed
Ethelwold. Gorm might even have been amongst
them. Unfortunately, Ethelwold was killed, and the
Steenstrup, in his Normanerne, when referring to the
building of the Danevirke and the Burghs in England,
calls attention to the similarity of their construction,
especially about the escarpment of the ditch, as being
different from the German and French burgs, which
were also being built about that time. He adds that
there was another similarity ; that they were built by
women, and women whose husbands were ill at the
time ; and he adds a third resemblance, if Saxo is right,
that is, that both were built by the daughters of a king.
He might have added that there was no wonder that
they were alike, as they were built by cousins, for
Thyra, the daughter of Ethelred, was the cousin of
Athelflaed, who built the burghs in England.
In another part of the same book Professor Steen-
strup calls attention to the great number of treacheries
which took place in England during the invasion of
England by Svein and Canute, and he adds that there
are not many instances in all history that a nation has
been so often and so thoroughly betrayed by its own
people as the Anglo-Saxons were at that time, except
there had been a dynastic strife. But if Thyra was the
2Q4 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
daughter of Kthelred, then the so-called invasion of
Svein and Canute was a dynastic strife ; for they had
more right to the throne than Ethelred the II. They
were in fact, almost in the same condition relative to
Ethelred II., as the Duke of York and his son, Edward
IV., were to Henry VI. at the time of the Wars of the
Roses. The Duke of York was unquestionably heir
general of the royal line through his mother Anne,
daughter of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, son of
Phillippa, daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third
son of Edward III., as against the reigning sovereign,
Henry VI., a weak king, descended from a younger
brother of Lionel. Similarly we may say that Svein
was undoubtedly heir general of the royal line by his
grandmother, Thyra, daughter of Ethelred I., elder
brother of Alfred the Great, as compared with the weak
king, Ethelred II., descended from the younger brother,
Alfred the Great. The similarity in the treacheries is
far too striking not to be the result of the same cause,
viz., a dynastic struggle, and is strong corroborative
evidence for the accuracy of Saxo's statement that
Thyra was the daughter of Ethelred I.
The number of traitors in both cases was very large,
and includes all sorts and conditions of men. The
great traitors, Warwick and the Duke of Clarence, in the
Wars of the Roses, are well represented by ./Elfric and
by Eadric Streona ; the latter's constant changes of side
and near connection to the King Ethelred II. are on a
par with that of the Duke of Clarence, for the treachery
of Eadric Streona has never been properly explained.
It puzzled Professor Ereeman, but I think, in the light
of a dynastic dispute, his change of side may be
Eadric Streona was the son of one ^Ethelric of Bock-
ing, in Essex, who was accused to the king about 995
that he had said that Svein ought to be received in
Essex; this accusation appears to have been kept in
reserve till his will was brought to be confirmed by
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 295
King Ethelred II.; Eadric Streona was the Thane of
Oswald, at one time Bishop of Worcester, and after-
wards Archbishop of York, who was a Dane, and a
great friend, I think a nephew, of Archbishop Odda,
who was Archbishop of Canterbury. This gave Eadric
a very good start in life, and his father could not have
been such an unknown person as Freeman has stated,
and as we know Eadric married Ethelred 's daughter.
Amongst the signatures to the will of yEthelric of Bock-
ing is the signature of ^thelmaer, immediately after
those of the bishops, and at the head of the Thanes.
This is most probably ^Ethelmaer, the great Earl of
Wessex, son of the historian, ^Ethelweard, who claimed
descent from Ethelred I., but whether from a son or
another daughter is not known. These people must
have known that Svein was the head of the House of
Ethelred I., and may have been in league with him to
restore their common ancestors' family to the throne.
When Svein came south from Gainsborough we find
the Wessex thanes met him at Bath to give their
allegiance, and when Canute came back in 1015, after
Svein 's death, yEthelmaer and the Wessex thanes wel-
comed him, and after the defeat at Penselwood we find
that ^Ethelmaer still clung to Canute, for he was at
the Battle of Sherston near Malmsbury.
When Canute, after the death of Edmund Ironside,
divided the kingdom of England into earldoms, he
reserved Wessex for himself. Was it because it was
the rightful property of his ancestors ?
The contention that Svein and his son Canute had,
like the Duke of York and his son Edward IV., a prior
right to the throne of England over the then reigning
king, accounts for so many difficulties in the history
of that time, that it may be taken as strong corrobora-
tive evidence in favour of Saxo's account of Thyra 's
birth. It accounts for most of the treachery during the
so-called conquest of England by Svein and Canute,
it accounts for the special form of treachery of Eadric
296 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
Streona, it accounts for the change back to Ethelred II.
when Svein died, as being the most fitting man of the
descendants of ^Ethelwulf left in England, bad as he
was; as well as for the return to Canute when he had
proved himself as fitting a man as his father. It
accounts for the willingness to divide the kingdom
between the two rival dynasties, and finally it accounts
for the wonderful manner in which England accepted
the rule of Canute, when once he had asserted his right
to the throne, both by descent and conquest and by
election, just in the same manner as the English people
behaved towards Edward IV., when once his power
Now I hope I have persuaded you that the account
of Thyra's birth ought to be that some people say she
was the daughter of Klak Harald, a Jarl or King in
Holstein, but that it is more probable that she was the
daughter of Ethelred, King of England. I have one
other piece of proof, which, although it could not be
brought in by itself, can at least confirm the already
considerable body of evidence. About the time that,
according to the sagas, Gorm and the daughter of Klak
Harald were being married, viz., in 825, Christianity
was first brought to Denmark by St. Anskar, and he
founded a small church at Ribe, a port close to the sea
on the west coast of Denmark in those days, but now
somewhat inland. It is just to the south of the islands
of Fano and Mano, close to which latter is the now
flourishing port of Esbjerg, which was, however, non-
existent sixty years ago. At Ribe there was a Christian
church built, and Rembertus was the pastor. He suc-
ceeded St. Anskar as Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen
in 865, but he no doubt kept up his interest in the
church of Ribe until his death in 888, for the port
of Ribe was only a few hours' sail from Hamburg.
Opposite Ribe, on the south part of the small island of
Eano is the village of Sonderho. Some sixty years
ago, before the great changes which took place as a
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 297
THYRA'S FONT AT SoNDERHO. I.
2g 8 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
consequence of the increasing trade of the port of
Ksbjerg, a Mr. Marryat was travelling in Denmark for
archaeological purposes. At Sonderho he heard a
tradition that Thyra, the wife of Gorm, the daughter
of an English king, had given the font to the old Son-
derho church in consequence of her having been saved
from drowning when she was wrecked off Mano island
on her way to Ribe to marry Gorm the old. Mr.
Marryat did not pay much attention, and merely
remarks that the font was an unshapely mass of
granite. There is no doubt that the font, looked at
casually, is to-day an unshapely mass, but on examina-
tion it may be noticed that from one direction it is very
graceful and symmetrical, although from others most
ungainly and ugly; further examination will show that
the font has been badly treated, and much of it roughly
broken, especially at the sides, just like the monuments
in our churches were treated at the time of the Common-
wealth, and that the greater part of the rim has been
chipped away. There are five other granite fonts in Jut-
land, one close to Sonderho at Brondon, on the main-
land. These are of the twelfth century; they have four
crosses on the rim and one or two on the side. We
can now see why the sides of the Sonderho font were
broken, viz., to get rid of the crosses on the font rim
and on the side. It seems very probable that the font
at Sonderho had originally some crosses on the side and
on the rim, which at some time were broken away, and
it takes a great deal to break away the side of a granite
font ; it was done purposely. There is no doubt that at
one time the font was an extremely fine one and very
graceful in its outline, and it was made at a time when
good workers did work for Christian buildings. In
comparison with the five fonts made in the twelfth cen-
tury it was much more graceful in its lines. This font
later fell into disrepute, was roughly treated by some-
body's orders, for no amount of casual damage would
equal the harm which has been done to it. Granite is
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 299
THVRA'S FONT AT SOXUERHO. II.
300 Saga-Book of the Viking Society.
one of the hardest of stones. The font was again
restored to favour, but it was used in its damaged con-
dition, with the tradition attached to it which has
already been stated. It is situated in the very place
where a traveller coming from England would be
wrecked. It is old enough to have been made at the
time mentioned, i.e., about 900. It bears evidence of
having been wilfully damaged in a manner which would
occur during a lapse from Christianity, such as occurred
during the regn of Svein, so I think we may add this
as a scintilla of additional evidence in favour of Thyra's
being the daughter of Kthelred I. of England.
The Danmarks Riges Historie gives a choice of two
solutions for the birth of Thyra, I should like to offer
a third, and that is that Gorm the old had two wives,
both of them named Thyra. The first was the daughter
of Klak Harald, and the second the daughter of Ethel-
red of England. Some one will no doubt ask how did
an English king's daughter come by such a Scandi-
navian name as Thyra; the answer is that Ethelred's
mother was the daughter of the last of the princes of
Moen, who were of Jutish descent.
There is no difficulty in Gorm's having two wives, in
succession or even together, or even of the same name.
The instance of Halfdan the Black, King of Norway,
immediately recurs to memory.
We have seen that Thyra, the daughter of Klak
Harald, could not for physical reasons have been the
mother of Harald Bluetooth ; but there is no great
physical difficulty about Gorm, even at the age of over
eighty, being his father when he married the young
daughter of Ethelred of England, who would have been
about twenty-eight years old.
In support of the suggestion I have made I may
remark on the inscriptions on the two rune stones in
Jellinge churchyard, a large one ancj a small one. The
church lies between two immense tumuli. The northern
one is called by tradition Thyra's grave, but by a
Thyra, the Wife of Gorm the Old. 30!
curious chance the smaller rune stone, which comes
from the southern tumulus, is inscribed as follows :
" Gorm made this monument in memory of his wife
Thyra Danmarkarbot." It is generally stated that
Thyra lived after Gorm, which this monument proves
an error, unless there were two Thyras. The larger
rune stone, which is said to have been always in the
churchyard, tells us that Harald the king bade make
this stone after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother,
the Harald who conquered all Denmark and Norway
and made the Danes Christian.
It is noticeable that Thyra is not called Danmarkar-
bot on the larger stone. 1 It seems to me that there must
have been two Thyras one who helped Gorm when he
was conquering all the smaller kings, and a second
Thyra who was the Thyra of his old age, who built the
Danework, and who outlived him, and was the mother
of Harald Bluetooth.
Photographs of Thyra's Font. Photo I. represents
the general appearance of the font, shewing that, with
the exception of the broken parts, it is graceful in form,
much more so than the twelfth century granite fonts.
The uneven line on the left upper rim is due to its
damaged condition. A piece has been broken off on
the right upper corner of the photograph, but the
greatest damage has been done in the lower left-hand
corner, which place corresponds to a cross on the
twelfth century font near Skuer in Jutland. High up
on the left of Photo I. is a broken piece. This is shown
on Photo II. in front view, and corresponds to a Runic
inscription on the twelfth century font near Skuer.
1 It may also be noticed that on the smaller stone the name is spelt
Thurin, while on the larger it is Thourin.
Curtis &> Beamish, Ltd., Coventry.
tfihing jforietg far flatifwrn
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